Substance abuse is recognized as a public health risk by the CDC with numerous adverse health consequences. A new study has pinpointed the increased risk of dementia as a result of alcohol abuse.
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School and the research team investigated the link between alcohol abuse and onset of severe cognitive and memory impairment in 6542 middle aged adults born between 1931-1941.
Participants were assessed with a questionnaire in 1992 followed up every other year from 1996-2010.
The research findings reveal that where participants registered a history of AUDs their chances of developing severe memory impairment more than doubled.
“We already know there is an association between dementia risk and levels of current alcohol consumption — that understanding is based on asking older people how much they drink and then observing whether they develop problems. But this is only one part of the puzzle and we know little about the consequences of alcohol consumption earlier in life. What we did here is investigate the relatively unknown association between having a drinking problem at any point in life and experiencing problems with memory later in life.”
“This finding — that middle-aged people with a history of problem drinking more than double their chances of memory impairment when they are older — suggests three things: that this is a public health issue that needs to be addressed; that more research is required to investigate the potential harms associated with alcohol consumption throughout life; and that the CAGE questionnaire may offer doctors a practical way to identify those at risk of memory/cognitive impairment and who may benefit from help to tackle their relationship with alcohol, said Dr. Ian Lang, the lead study researcher.
Elżbieta Kuźma, PhD, David J. Llewellyn, PhD, Kenneth M. Langa, PhD, Robert B. Wallace, MD, Iain A. Lang, PhD. History of alcohol use disorders and risk of severe cognitive impairment: A nineteen-year prospective cohort study. PII: S1064-7481(14)00167-5, doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2014.06.001