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What Is Alcohol Dementia?

Learn about alcohol dementia in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


I've been asked about the phrase, alcohol dementia, and what is alcohol dementia. Alcohol dementia refers to a brain disorder that can occur through long exposure to alcohol.

Alcohol dementia, you generally see in people who have been abusing alcohol at high levels for a very long time. People don't get alcohol dementia early on in their alcohol abuse. Again, alcohol dementia only occurs over the course of a long time So you often see alcohol dementia in people who are a bit older. Alcohol dementia, like other dementia, is an impairment in cognition where there will be a change in the brain's functioning. And usually it's a permanent change because of the death of actual brain cells and the changes in the vascular structure of the brain.

In other words, the blood flow to the brain changes, and it causes the dementia which can show in people by them over time, just like in other dementias, through memory loss, through lack of recognition, through other people and of their own experiences. Alcohol dementia is chronic, it's permanent, and it's, again, in the extreme forms of long-term severe alcohol use.

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