How Does Alcohol Lead To Cognitive Issues?

The majority of people who drink have encountered memory issues and slower thinking that might be associated with their alcohol usage. While intoxicated, they could have trouble remembering past events or learning new information, such as a person’s name.

Those who drink a lot may black out or lose all memory of the things that happened while they were drinking. You may wonder if these issues might cause more damage than we know. What are the adverse effects of drinking, and can it lead to substantial long-term brain damage?

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?

Alcohol has a significant impact on the intricate brain systems. The common early signs of intoxication, such as impulsive behavior, slurred speech, poor memory, and sluggish reflexes, are caused by the blocking of chemical communication between brain cells, known as neurons. Long-term excessive drinking causes the brain to adjust to the blocked signals by acting more dramatically on specific brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

When alcohol is eliminated from the body, the brain continues to trigger the neurotransmitters, leading to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that may be life-threatening and may even result in brain cell damage. Binge drinking and abrupt withdrawal only serve to exacerbate this harm.

Long-Term Effects of Drinking Alcohol

It is challenging to determine the impact of alcohol on cognitive decline when it comes to its connection to strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other issues with dementia, simply because few studies exist. On the other hand, there is a lot of knowledge about how alcohol usage alone affects cognitive performance.

A more recent study found a possible connection between drinking alcohol and increased amounts of iron in our brains, linking that correlation to increased cognitive decline. The study suggests that just a few drinks a week, essentially three glasses of wine, may increase iron buildup in our brains. This is significant since iron buildup has also been connected to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

More research is needed, but it seems that even moderate drinking might affect our brains long-term.


For now, there does not seem to be an exact amount of alcohol that triggers cognitive decline, but it is widely believed that long-term use has a definite impact. More studies are being conducted on when that impact begins and at what amount of use.

The key factors to understand are that if you’re drinking a glass of wine with dinner on occasion, your risks are more likely significantly lower than someone who is finishing a bottle of wine each night.