This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
Are you a heavy drinker? Have you noticed you forget a lot? Do your colleagues and relatives accuse you of forgetting things you don’t remember them telling you? Are you slowly realising that your memory is not as good as it used to be? Are you suspecting your short-term memory loss could be related to your alcohol intake?
Alcohol might be the culprit. Alcoholism has been proven to affect memory by countless researchers.
If your memory has not been reliable since you started taking alcohol, kindly call 0203 955 7700 immediately for assistance. We are always there to help.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism isn’t simply taking a glass of alcohol now and then but consuming it in large and unsafe quantities at regular intervals. That could mean drinking more than three alcoholic drinks per day for women and four or more per day for men. Alcoholism is the most severe of the various forms of alcohol abuse that leaves individuals unable to manage or control their drinking habits.
Alcoholism can be categorised into mild, moderate and severe. Each of these categorisations has its associated effects that can become severe when left untreated. When an individual’s brain is severely affected due to alcohol, they may have symptoms such as:
- Slurred speech
- Permanent Cognitive Impairment
Aside from these symptoms, memory loss is another possible effect. The brain employs neurotransmitters to function correctly, which the alcohol in the bloodstream disrupts. The brain may try to adapt to deal with the results of alcohol. However, there is only so much it might be able to do.
Is there a connection between Alcoholism and Short Term Memory Loss?
The regular consumption of alcohol can come with a myriad of problems, of which memory loss is one. Short-term memory loss is one of the most common effects of alcoholism. Short-term memory loss can even be experienced by individuals who are just taking alcohol for the first time; the situation is no different for those who take alcohol often or more than their bodies can tolerate.
Whenever individuals experience memory loss due to alcohol consumption, they are usually unable to fully remember details such as what happened during the period of intoxication or shortly before they started consuming. It might look like they are lying or simply pretending, but that’s not the case; they simply do not remember what happened.
Alcohol is a depressant which means it has significant effects on brain function. Alcohol slows down the communication between the nerves, especially those in the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of memories. When nerve activity is affected or slowed down there, memory loss can occur. Interfering or disrupting the functioning of the hippocampus typically affects the creation and maintenance of memory; this eventually causes short term memory loss.
Although the individual is mainly unable to recall a chunk of information, vague memories might be formed and later triggered by external stimuli such as smell, some cue of words and even an image. These external stimuli serve as triggers that cause some or all of the seemingly lost memories to return. This is not always the case, though.
Symptoms of Short term memory loss
It is logical to think that experiencing short term memory loss will be very apparent, yet that’s not the case in most situations, especially for the one experiencing it. However, if you suspect that you or someone close to you is experiencing short term memory loss, you might want to look out for these symptoms:
- Not remembering conversations: Usually, those experiencing short term memory loss tend to forget conversations they’ve had with colleagues, friends or family. The occurrence and frequency of the situation increase the more they consume alcohol.
- Inability to pay attention: Another sign of short term memory loss is the inability to pay attention to anything around the individual. This challenge cuts across job tasks and social activities as well. The seriousness of the situation is typically proportionate to the amount of alcohol taken.
- Always getting into trouble with people with no recollection: Another sign of short term memory loss is when you seemingly get into trouble with people around you. Usually, in this type of situation, the offended party has to even remind you of what you did.
- Waking up in places with no recollection of how you got there: This is very common, especially after a night of heavy drinking. It can also happen with moderate consumption of alcohol as well. The individual can wake up and genuinely not know where they are. The situation may disorient the person experiencing it.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, then you are probably experiencing memory loss due to alcohol consumption. Kindly call 0203 955 7700 immediately for assistance. We are here to help.
Factors that affect the severity of Memory Loss
Although alcoholism has been linked to affecting memory loss, its severity differs with each person and various factors. However, some do experience short term memory loss even with moderate drinking. Some of these factors that determine the severity of memory loss are:
- The quantity of alcohol consumed and frequency at which it is consumed: An individual who drinks a lot of alcohol regularly is likely to experience short term memory loss compared to someone who seldom drinks. If an individual also goes beyond what his body can tolerate in a sitting, even though they don’t consume alcohol often, they are likely to experience short term memory loss.
- Age of first exposure & number of years spent drinking: An individual who started drinking at an early age would have built up a tolerance to minimise the effects of taking alcohol. It doesn’t, however, mean the individual is immune to the impact. They will just experience it less than someone who recently started drinking and is new to drinking alcohol. You’re more likely to experience effects like blackout and memory loss in your early days of drinking alcohol than in the latter days.
- Genetic Background & Family History of Alcoholism: The individual’s genetic makeup affects how much alcohol will affect them. Someone coming from a family with a background of alcoholism will be affected differently compared to someone who is not. For one, the level of tolerance is going to be very different.
- General Health Status: A healthy person stands a better chance of not experiencing the adverse effects of alcohol, such as memory loss, compared to someone who is not very fine healthwise.
These factors play a significant role in determining if the individual will feel the effects of consuming alcohol, such as short term memory loss.
Quick Note: Tolerance refers to the level at which an individual might experience the effects of alcohol. It depends on factors, such as how long the individual has been drinking, the consistency of drinking behaviour, and the individual’s genetic makeup.
Treatment for this condition involves a combination of medical and professional help along with lifestyle changes. Both of them are equally needed to make a recovery from short term memory loss due to alcoholism.
There are a variety of options available to individuals seeking treatment. We’d list some of the treatment options, yet, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor or visit a specialised facility. The options available include:
- Thiamine Supplementation: Alcoholism leads to the rapid decline of thiamine in the body. The rapid deterioration affects the functions of the brain as well. In severe situations, it can lead to Wernicke – Korswasakoff Syndrome, experiences confusion and the constant loss of recent and working memory and many other issues.
Low levels of thiamine could therefore be associated with memory loss. Improving thiamine levels in the body will help deal with this. Thiamine could either be taken as a supplement or intravenously (IV). Intravenous Thiamine is usually only used when the deficiency is severe.
- Therapy: Various forms and types of treatment do exist for alcoholism. The therapies deal with cravings and compulsive behaviours that might have been developed due to the regular consumption of alcohol. It will also make provisions for the various withdrawal symptoms that come with staying away from alcohol after a long time of indulging.
Some of the therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on the individual restructuring their thought processes, family counselling, which focuses on improving the relationships of the person struggling with addiction. And activity engagement programs that help the individual develop new skills social experiences. Depending on how severe the symptoms and case of addiction is, residential treatment may also be offered.
- Memory medication: Alcohol-induced short term memory loss can be treated using other drugs meant to treat memory-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and different types of dementia. An example of such a drug is memantine. These medications must, however, be taken after a thorough examination.
Changes to your one’s lifestyle can significantly impact short-term memory loss caused by alcoholism. However, suppose the memory loss is minimal. In that case, it can be handled by simply adopting a lifestyle that removes alcohol from the individual’s life once this is done, especially if the doctor recommends it.
You can avoid short-term memory loss by removing alcohol from the equation. Avoiding alcohol can help prevent dementia from worsening. This is recommended, especially if the doctor states so. Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed could significantly decrease the loss of Memory.
Although this change might be uneasy at first and not come naturally, you must look at the various effects of alcohol coupled with the effects on your memory and come to this decision. Some practical steps you can take to reduce or stop taking alcohol include:
- Avoid invitations from friends to drink. If possible, let everyone know your decision and slowly cut off those who do not agree to it.
- Remove all alcoholic beverages from your home.
- Cancel any grocery store subscription that delivers alcohol to your home regularly
- Spend more time with family and friends, so you have little to no time to go out drinking.
- Become accountable to someone so you are kept on your toes at all times.
The effects of alcohol should not be overlooked, especially when memory functions are involved. Therefore, necessary steps must be taken to end the problem as early as possible. Delaying could only complicate things further. Remember, you can call us on 0203 955 7700 for further assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Go To The Clinic And Buy Memory Drugs To Help My Memory Loss?
Can I Suffer Permanent Brain Damage From Alcoholism?
Will Therapy Truly Help Me With Alcoholism And Memory Loss?
My Friends Consume The Same Amount Of Alcohol As I Do, But I Am The Only One Experiencing These Symptoms; why?
- ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN
- Alcohol and Memory Loss: Connection, Research, and Treatment
- What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain
- Alcohol and Memory Loss
- Effects of alcohol on memory
- Heavy Drinking in Middle Age May Speed Memory Loss for Men
- Alcoholism’s short-term effects on memory functioning are harmful
- Korsakoff Syndrome | Symptoms & Treatments | alz.org
- Effect of Alcohol on Short Term Memory in Alcoholics | The British Journal of Psychiatry | Cambridge Core
Alcoholism involves consuming alcohol in large and unsafe quantities at regular intervals. This is unsafe, especially for the individual’s memory, as alcohol slows down the communication between the nerves, especially those in the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of memories, and disruption of its function would eventually lead to memory loss.