Alcohol Use Disorders and the Brain

Addiction. 2020 Aug;115(8):1580-1589. doi: 10.1111/add.15023. Epub 2020 Mar 17.

Abstract

A diagnosis of alcohol use disorder is associated with a higher risk of dementia, but a dose-response relationship between alcohol intake consumption and cognitive impairment remains unclear. Alcohol is associated with a range of effects on the central nervous system at different doses and acts on a number of receptors. Acute disorders include Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE), traumatic brain injury, blackouts, seizures, stroke and hepatic encephalopathy. The most common manifestations of chronic alcohol consumption are Korsakoff's syndrome (KS) and alcohol-related dementia (ARD). There is limited evidence for benefit from memantine in the treatment of ARD, but stronger evidence for the use of high-dose parenteral thiamine in the progression of neuropsychiatric symptoms for WE. Accumulating evidence exists for pharmacological treatment in the prevention of hepatic encephalopathy. Rehabilitation of people with ARD may take several years, and requires an approach that addresses physical and psychosocial factors.

Keywords: Alcohol; Korsakoff's syndrome; Wernicke's encephalopathy; dementia: brain; hepatic encephalopathy; thiamine.