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Am J Psychiatry. 1995 Jan;152(1):53-9.

Neuropsychological functioning in detoxified alcoholics between 18 and 35 years of age.

Author information

  • 1Laboratory of Clinical Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Md 20892-1250.



The authors determined 1) cognitive functioning in detoxified alcoholics who had alcohol-related problems for a relatively brief time and 2) relationships between neuropsychological test scores and recent and chronic alcohol consumption patterns, childhood symptoms of hyperactivity/minimal brain dysfunction, and extent of familial alcoholism.


The subjects were 101 detoxified, drug-free alcoholics between 18 and 35 years of age who had consumed excessive amounts of alcohol (average of 114 g four to five times per week) for an average of 6 years. An average of 39 days after the last drink each alcoholic was given an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests assessing language skills, attention, motor skills, intelligence, memory, and cognitive functioning related to the frontal regions of the brain.


Only four individuals evidenced mild cognitive dysfunction. Current psychiatric condition, anxiety and depressive states, and liver dysfunction were not related to cognition. Relationships of cognition of lifetime estimates of alcohol consumption (average of 189 kg) and number of days from last drink to testing were determined to be nonlinear and suggested that greater lifetime consumption predicted worse performance and that longer abstinence predicted better performance. Neither extent of familial alcoholism nor number of childhood signs and symptoms of hyperactivity/minimal brain dysfunction was predictive of cognition except that more antisocial behavior predicted poorer cognitive functioning.


Cognition in young alcoholics, averaging 6 years of excessive alcohol consumption, was within normal limits, even though greater lifetime consumption predicted lower test scores and longer abstinence predicted higher scores.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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