How Does Alcohol Use Affect Memory?


Brain explosion

Common situations with excessive alcohol use involve “blackouts”, or moments in which a person cannot recall certain details or events after a period of heavy drinking. For many people, blackouts can be nerve-wracking; finding out from friends about what someone said or did the night before can produce feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and more. Indeed, alcohol does affect memory – as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states, men and women equally experience blackouts, despite the fact that men often drink alcohol in larger quantities. There are a number of factors that influence how alcohol interacts with the brain:

  • A person’s age and sex
  • What, how much and how often a person drinks
  • When a person started drinking and how long they’ve been drinking for
  • Level of education, genetic background, and family history regarding alcoholism
  • A person’s general health status

A 2016 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology and conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California involved the exploration of alcohol and its effects on working memory. Forty-one participants were involved in the study, with a little over half being males aged approximately 39 years old. Participants were involved in three sessions and were each time administered alcohol concentrations of either .4 grams, .8 grams, or a placebo. The researchers then assessed their working memory, memory past 30 days of alcohol consumption, and consequences of alcohol use after each session. Results from the study showed that the greater the number of drinks per day, the poorer a participants’ working memory was. This inherently affected the severity of consequences associated with alcohol use as well.

Because each person has varying individual factors, alcohol consumption may be different – however, the reality is that the more you drink, the greater the likelihood you will experience immediate memory issues which directly affects your executive functioning and could also place you (and others) in danger. Since alcohol impairs a person’s ability to think logically, you run the risk of making impulsive decisions.

If you’ve been struggling with alcoholism, seek help today by speaking with a professional from a reputable treatment center to learn more about addiction recovery programs. It’s never too late to begin your journey to recovery.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-207-0965 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.