Some of the detrimental effects of heavy alcohol use on brain function are similar to those observed with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although alcohol use may be a risk factor for AD, it is difficult to study this relationship because of similarities between alcoholic dementia and AD and because standard diagnostic criteria for alcoholic dementia have not yet been developed. Similar biological mechanisms may be involved in the effects of AD and alcohol abuse on the brain. Epidemiologic studies have investigated the relationship between alcohol use and AD but have not provided strong evidence to suggest that alcohol use influences the risk of developing AD. Further research is needed before the effect of alcohol use on AD is understood fully.