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Alcohol and cognitive impairment

  • Sameer Jauhar, E. Jane Marshall and Iain D. Smith


The relationship between alcohol use and cognitive impairment has been notoriously difficult to disentangle. We present what is known about cognitive impairment associated with alcohol use/misuse, covering the spectrum from mild and subtle cognitive change through to severe alcohol-related brain damage, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. We highlight aids to the diagnosis and management of these conditions, and emphasise the benefits of prompt treatment on outcome. We also review progress in understanding their neurobiology. Suggestions for possible service configuration based on both our clinical practice and national guidelines are given.

Learning Objectives

  1. Gain an understanding of the spectrum of clinical presentations found in alcohol-related brain damage.
  2. Understand that the aetiology of these conditions is complex and not solely due to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol.
  3. Be better able to plan for the rehabilitation of individuals with established alcohol-related brain damage in your local service area.

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Corresponding author

Dr lain D. Smith, Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist, Kershaw Unit, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, 1055 Great Western Road, Glasgow G12 0XH, UK. Email:


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The acronym ARBD can also mean ‘alcohol-related birth defects', but in this article it is used only for ‘alcohol-related brain damage’.

Declaration of Interest




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Alcohol and cognitive impairment

  • Sameer Jauhar, E. Jane Marshall and Iain D. Smith
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