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Alcohol and Brain Fog: How Drinking Affects Cognitive Function

Alcohol and Brain Fog: How Drinking Affects Cognitive Function

Article At A Glance:

Before I got sober, one thing that I noticed was the constant brain fog caused by alcohol.

Of course, Brain fog can also be a response to poor sleep or malnutrition, but funnily enough, these are also two major areas impacted by chronic alcohol abuse.

In this article, we’ll explore how alcohol impacts our cognitive health, including our memory, and some short actionable advice to help clear brain fog in early sobriety.

Alcohol and Brain Fog

You probably already know it, but when we drink alcohol, our brain’s ability to perform basic cognitive processes is impacted.

This is due to alcohol’s ability to slow down the central nervous system, leading to a reduction in communication between brain cells.

Alcohol also causes dehydration, which can lead to headaches, fatigue, and these are all often the start of alcohol-induced brain fog.

During chronic alcohol abuse, we can experience damage to brain cells, drastically impairing memory, and vital decision-making processes that further exacerbate long-term cognitive function (making brain fog worse).

Brain Fog in Early Sobriety

You may have perhaps already started your journey in sobriety and are wondering how brain fog relates if you have already quit alcohol.

During early sobriety, areas such as quality sleep, good nutrition and even hydration status can still be impacted by our alcohol abuse (Kverno, 2021).

These areas are often key contributors to brain fog, and if we’re looking to optimise our cognitive health and long-term sobriety, it’s critical to address these.

 These areas are actually part of the 5 Simple Habits You Should Be Doing to Sustain Long-Term Sobriety.

Cognitive Health in Addiction Recovery

Although we can do significant damage to our brain during years of alcohol abuse, our brain has a remarkable ability to recover.

During early sobriety, here are some tips you can do to prioritise cognitive health.

Exercise regularly

It sounds simple, but a healthy exercise regime is not only essential for overall health but has significant benefits on cognitive function. Studies have even suggested that prolonged exercise may improve executive function and decrease compulsive behaviours in addiction-prone individuals (Costa et al., 2019).

Read more on Exercise in Sobriety here.

Do new things

Learning a new skill or engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help stimulate the brain and promote better cognitive function (Mintzer et al., 2019). This could be starting a new hobby, doing a puzzle, or even exercising perhaps?

It could even be as simple as getting more socially connected with others, which can also be a great resource for accountability.

Eating well

Adequate nutrition is critical for maintaining healthy cognitive function, and poor nutritional status is a common characteristic of alcohol abuse. Prioritising nutritional health is high up on the totem pole for sobriety, so if you were to pick anything, start here.

To learn more about Nutrition in Sobriety, I recommend the two below articles:

The Takeaway

Alcohol consumption can cause brain fog due to its impact on basic cognitive processes and the central nervous system. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to long-term cognitive impairment. 

Even in early sobriety, brain fog can persist due to poor sleep, nutrition, and hydration. However, there are ways to prioritize cognitive health, such as exercising regularly, engaging in mentally stimulating activities, and eating well. 

By incorporating these habits, individuals in addiction recovery can improve their cognitive function and sustain long-term sobriety.

If you have any feedback regarding this article, reach out. Help Clarity reach more people and quit addiction by following us on Instagram, it’s also the perfect place to message us and ask questions!


  • Costa, K. G., Cabral, D. A., Hohl, R., & Fontes, E. B. (2019). Rewiring the Addicted Brain Through a Psychobiological Model of Physical Exercise. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10.
  • Kverno, K. (2021). Brain Fog: A Bit of Clarity Regarding Etiology, Prognosis, and Treatment. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 59(11), 9–13.
  • Mintzer, J., Donovan, K. A., Kindy, A. Z., Lock, S. L., Chura, L. R., & Barracca, N. (2019). Lifestyle Choices and Brain Health. Frontiers in Medicine, 6.