Alcohol’s Effect on Memory

Alcohol’s Effect on Memory

You may have seen it before in movies and television shows the plot where someone drinks way too much alcohol where they do and say a bunch of crazy things and not remember the next day. The same is true in real life where alcohol can affect the memories of those who drink too much. It is important to watch your alcohol intake so that when you are with the people that you love, you carry the wonderful memories with you always.

Drinking too much alcohol can make you lose your memory and the possibility of brain damage. You may have trouble recalling if you have completed a certain task like if you have locked the door, turned the heat off the stove, or if you have misplaced an important item like your keys. It can be very frustrating for you but if you are an alcoholic, it still may not be enough to stop drinking. Everyone should have memories of important that you will cherish. For example, if your child has reached a significant milestone like their sweet sixteen, graduation, wedding, having a child, you do not want to let alcohol keep you from remembering those moments that will make you laugh, smile, and cry. You may have also had a thought but then constantly forget what you were going to say. Maybe you have told the same stories over and over again because you forgot that you already told it already. Those items that you normally place in certain areas like your keys in your purse or your wallet by your nightstand, you forgot that you put it there even though it was always a routine to do so.

According to Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, heavy drinkers have 30% more memory issues than those that do not drink. The same goes for the 25% of people with memory problems compared to those who only drink small amounts. In this experiment, people with higher levels of alcohol miss appointments, birthdays, and are not able to pay their bills on time. This happens because the brain stops transferring information from short-term to long-term. It is like a train that exited the short-term memory station but stalled and never made it towards the long-term memory station. Alcohol can damage the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that stores critical memory and learning. If this part of the brain gets damaged, it will shrink and change your neurons which will reduce the size of your brain cells.

Another name for memory problems as a result of alcohol is called blackouts which make encoding memories difficult to remember like experiences or events. If you forget your memories while you were drinking but remember everything that happened before you drank, that is called en-bloc blackout. Fragmentary blackouts are not as serious as you are able to retain some memory of what you said or did while you were drinking. Having problems with your memory should not be treated as minor as you can engage in risky behavior like unprotected sex and risk getting a sexually transmitted disease. You could wake up with an unplanned pregnancy or a disease and have no memory of how it happened or who your sexual partner was. You could also engage in fights or aggressive confrontations where you get seriously hurt or someone else does and not know what happened.

By not drinking any alcohol at all, you will not have any lapses in memory and not have to worry about remembering any important information. If you feel like you absolutely have to drink, you need to remember the guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have placed. Women should be having no more than one drink a day and men should have no more than two. You should also see a doctor if your friends or family members are telling you that they have noticed your problems with memorizing important information that you had no trouble doing before or if you, yourself, have noticed these lapses. Doctors and mental health professionals can do neurological testing to see if there is any brain damage as a result of your drinking and how serious the impact is. Eat healthy fruits, vegetables, and other types of food to help your brain recover.

When you are drinking alcohol, do not let that alcoholic beverage be the first thing that you drink during the day or if you are having a party. Drink a lot of water so that you are not thirsty and drink slowly. Keep hydrating yourself by switching between the alcoholic drink and water so that alcohol is not the only liquid in your body. You should also make sure not to drink alcohol with medications like painkillers, aspirin, Benadryl, or ambien as it will increase your chances. Avoid drinking games like beer pong as it can spike your levels. It helps to drink beverages with electrolytes like sports drinks to help with your brain function recover after a long night of drinking. If you want to test your memory, have a friend ask you what you remember from ten or fifteen minutes ago and talk about what happened. If you do not remember any recent memories that just happened, that should not be something that you ignore. By going into treatment for your alcoholism, you are in control of your memories that you can cherish forever.

Located in Tacoma, Washington, Bayview Center’s mission is to offer clinically-driven programs and services to treat a number of substance abuse disorders along with anxiety and depression using cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, yoga therapy, and more for a successful recovery. For more information, please call us 1-888-570-7154 at as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.