Long-term abstinent alcoholics have normal memory

Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research
R ReedS B Rourke


It is generally believed that many non-Korsakoff alcoholics have subtle defects in memory. To determine whether such defects vary as a function of length of abstinence (LOA), we performed extensive memory testing with: (1) recently detoxified (n = 31; LOA-29 days); (2) intermediate-term abstinent (n = 28; LOA = 1.9 years); (3) long-term abstinent (n = 32; LOA-7.0 years) alcoholics; and (4) nonalcoholic controls (n = 37). All subjects were matched on age and education. Alcoholics were matched on years of alcoholic drinking. Memory measures were divided into the following domains: verbal learning, verbal recall, visual learning, visual recall, and paired associate learning. A series of MANOVAs were conducted that revealed a significant relationship between visual learning and length of abstinence, and a significant interaction between age and length of abstinence on visual recall. Long-term abstinent subjects were not significantly different from controls on any test. We conclude that memory disturbance demonstrable among recently detoxified alcoholics in the early weeks of their abstinence is not evident in demographically matched long-term abstinent alcoholics with similar drinking histories.


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