How Does Alcohol Affect Memory?

How Does Alcohol Affect Memory?


The main ingredient found in alcoholic beverages is called Ethanol. This is the substance that causes a certain type of memory to become inhibited or impaired. Ethanol is an extremely volatile and flammable liquid that can be considered a 'central nervous system' depressant. Alcohol abuse can lead to severe damage to memory and functionality, both of which are needed in order to operate correctly on a daily basis.


There are two main memory types; Long term memory (LTM), which can be defined as a 'limitless store', that can hold information and memories anywhere between 2 min to 100 years. The three processes that memory must go through in order to be placed within the LTM are; Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval all of which can be affected by alcohol abuse. The second type of memory is known as Short term memory (STM), which can be defined as, a capacity for holding small amounts of information. The capacity can contain 7+2 or 7-2 elements. Alcohol has also been known to have a dissociative effect on the STM.


There are many different types of memory loss that are associated with the effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol. The first type of memory loss is a well-known stage experienced by college students and university students. This is known as 'Brown-out' this is a type of fragmented memory loss and is the expression used to describe the lack of memory after a heavy night of drinking. This type of memory loss can be prompted either by a word or a clue.


The next stage is known as the 'Black-out' stage, which is where the person has an excessive intake of alcohol and even with all the prompts in the world, would still not be able to recall the events during the binge-drinking episode.


The final and most severe form of memory loss is known as 'Wernicke-Korsakoff' Syndrome which is where the chronic consumption of alcohol over a long period of time can cause irreparable damage. This hyphenated syndrome is a mixture of, 'Wernicke's Disorders' where the body suffers from poor nutrition, mostly from low thiamine levels. These low levels of thiamine damage the nerves in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The second part of this disorder is referred to as 'Korsakoff Syndrome' which is related to alcohol abuse. This causes impairment of memory, the inability to learn, and also the failure to solve problems and issues.


This Syndrome acts like a wall that has been built after the onset of the disease. This means that any type of memory cannot be formed after the onset has occurred. People with this horrific disease usually act normally at first, however, tend to repeat questions over and over again. This disease has been compared to Alzheimer's however, unlike that fatal disease; 'Wernicke-Korsakoff' syndrome can be treated with intense nutritional and medication-based therapy. However, if this disease is left untreated it can lead to permanent brain-damage, this is why you must stop drinking alcohol if you are a binge drinker.

How Does Alcohol Affect Memory?