Heavy Drinking Affects Mental Abilities

Those of us who work in the field of addiction medicine know all too well the impact that alcohol can have on people. When consumed in small amounts and sporadically, alcohol is relatively safe for adults to use; however, when the substance is used frequently and in heavy amounts, it can wreak havoc on both mind and body. While alcohol is legal in the United States for adults over the age of 21 to consume, drinking can have long term side effects that may be irreversible.

Researchers continue to examine the devastating outcomes alcohol can have on people from every demographic. The findings can lead to new preventive methods and targets for intervention.

As “baby boomers” reach their senior years, lately there has been much concern raised recently about heavy drinking among this demographic. The trend is particularly concerning when you consider that researchers at the University of Florida (UF) have found that heavy drinking affects the mental abilities of older adults more than younger adults, according to a university press release. The findings, however, do not mean that younger adults who drink heavily are in the clear, the researchers found that heavy drinking in one’s younger years can have permanent effects on memory and learning ability when they are older. The findings were published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Long-Term Heavy Alcohol Use

Again alcohol is an addictive substance that can lead to a number serious health problems, including chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. Naturally, alcohol affects everyone a little bit differently, but science indicates that those who engage in prolonged, heavy alcohol use are highly susceptible to the aforementioned health problems. What is less understood is the effects of alcohol on one’s cognitive abilities, which is why the UF research is so important.

The UF researchers found that heavy drinking has a greater impact on thinking and memory, the older you are, according to the report. Those who have engaged in heavy drinking over the course of their life were found to have the same cognitive impact (even after someone stops consuming alcohol).

“As people get older, their decline of memory is one of their greatest complaints. We found that in those who drink heavily, as they age, they have a greater decline in thinking and memory than their non-drinking or moderate-drinking counterparts,” said Adam Woods, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of aging and geriatric research who led the study. “The real story is less of an age story and more of one of the consequences of heavy drinking in your past. You may think, ‘Well, I’m young, I’ll be fine, my body can take it.’ The reality is our data suggest this may not be the case. If you are drinking heavily, you may experience long-term cognitive consequences throughout life.”

Such people can have difficulty:

  • Driving
  • Learning New Technology
  • Remembering Cooking Recipe Steps
  • Following a Medication Schedule

Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or a loved one has been engaging in heavy alcohol use for a number of years, there is a high likelihood of the presence of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). At Family Recovery Specialists we can help you, whether you are young or older, break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery. The longer problematic drinking persists, the more serious it becomes in the future. Please contact us today.

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