Preliminary data are reported from a multicentred double-blind placebo-controlled study concerned with the effects of acetyl-L-carnitine (LAC) on some cognitive deficits of at least one month-abstinent alcoholics. Fifty-five patients, showing impaired performance in at least two out of six mnemonic, praxic and verbal tasks, were randomly assigned to either LAC 2 g/day or a placebo group. They were tested by means of a neuropsychological battery exploring the areas of memory, constructional praxia, deductive-logical functions and language. Testing time was on baseline (T0), after 45 (T45) and 90 (T90) days. On the Rey's 15 word memory test (long-term), the Wechsler memory scale (logical memory), and the Similarities WAIS subtest, the T90 difference between LAC and the placebo was significant in favour of the former treatment. On the copying drawing test (simple copy), the placebo group did not show any T0-T90 variation, while significant improvement in the LAC group was greater than in the placebo group. As LAC has proved to ameliorate the performance or to accelerate the recovery on tests representative of all cognitive areas explored, it is conceivable that the drug acts diffusely, either at the cholinergic transmission or at the neuronal metabolism level. It is concluded that acetyl-L-carnitine can be a useful and safe therapeutic agent in the subtle cognitive disturbances of chronic alcoholics.