Patterns of drinking are changing throughout the world and in many countries this will be detrimental to the health and welfare of the local population. Even uncomplicated alcoholics who have no specific neurological or hepatic problems show signs of regional brain damage and cognitive dysfunction. Many of these changes are exaggerated and other brain regions damaged in patients who have additional vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome). Quantitative neuropathology techniques and improvements in neuroimaging have contributed significantly to the documentation of these changes but mechanisms underlying the damage are not understood. A human brain bank targeting alcohol cases has been established in Sydney, Australia and provides fresh and frozen tissue for alcohol researchers. The tissues can be used to test hypotheses developed from structural neuropathological studies or from animal models and in vitro studies. Identification of reversible pathological changes and preventative medical approaches in alcoholism should enhance rehabilitation and treatment efforts, thereby mitigating debilitating morbidities and reducing mortality associated with this universal public health problem.