J Korean Geriatr Psychiatry.  2012 Dec;16(2):89-96.

Alcohol-Related Dementia

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Incheon Chamsarang Hospital, Incheon, Korea.
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Dasarang Central Hospital, Uiwang, Korea.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. kdj922@catholic.ac.kr


Chronic alcohol use may have direct or indirect neurotoxic effects on the brain that can lead to cognitive impairment. However, the precise relationship between alcohol and dementia remains unclear. There are several epidemiological studies suggest that the protective effect of light-moderate alcohol drinking in dementia. But obviously the heavy alcohol drinking can lead to brain damage and increase the risk of various types of dementia. The clinicopathological issues and criteria regarding so-called 'alcoholic dementia' remain under debate. Alcohol-induced persisting amnestic disorder, alcohol-induced persisting dementia, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (thiamine deficiency) may constitute distinct disease entities, but they may also share some common features. Based on this theory, Oslin and colleagues proposed the broader diagnostic scheme and criteria for Alcohol Related Dementia (ARD), which may include cases of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and also other cases of dementia that appear to be alcohol-related. In pathogenesis of the alcoholic dementia, the chronic exposure to ethanol results in the adaptive up-regulation of NMDA receptor sensitivity, which can result in an increased vulnerability to glutamate induced excitotoxicity. Despite the clinical importance of ARD, few medical treatments for ARD have been proposed and studied. Most of all, the gold standard of the treatment in alcoholic dementia is the maintaining abstinence. Some therapeutic trials with cholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil and rivastigmine) and memantine (NMDA receptor antagonist) have been conducted for the patients with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and alcohol-related dementia, and these studies reported favorable outcomes. Especially memantine can be a more effective agent in the treatment of alcoholic dementia because of anti-craving effect reported in several studies.


Alcohol-related dementia; Alcohol; Dementia; Cognition
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