Late-Onset Alcohol Abuse Could Be a Sign of Dementia

Medscape Staff

April 12, 2022

People who start abusing alcohol later in life may have an underlying neurologic condition such as dementia, according to researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of California, San Francisco.

What to know:

  • Alcohol abuse is present in 1.7% of older adults (aged 40 years or older) in the United States, and that abuse may be the first sign of an underlying neurologic condition, such as frontotemporal dementia.

  • Nearly 1 in 15 patients with frontotemporal dementia started abusing alcohol late in life, and for 1 in 20 patients, alcohol abuse was the first symptom of the dementia.

  • Because patients who begin using alcohol late in life are usually first seen by psychiatrists, primary care providers, and rehabilitation specialists, their underlying neurologic condition may be misdiagnosed, and the patient may not receive the proper care.

  • Late-onset alcohol abuse is significantly more frequent in patients with frontotemporal dementia than in those with Alzheimer's-type dementia, but it is also likely that the biological mechanisms underlying late-onset and lifelong alcohol abuse are different.

  • An early and appropriate diagnosis is paramount for providing the best management, improving patients' and families' quality of life and channeling patients to appropriate care facilities.

This is a summary of the article, "Late-Onset Alcohol Abuse Can Be a Presenting Symptom of Dementia, Researchers Find," published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on April 4, 2022. The full article can be found on

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