Associated Risks and Effects of Drinking

Memory and learning are two closely related as learning is the acquisition of skills or knowledge, while memory is using what you have acquired in your life. This section will take a look at some peer-reviewed study information that shows alcohol's ability to produce adverse effects on our brain's memory. 

Two Types of Memory Being Affected

Retrospective Memory (Long-term)

  • All event-based memories that have occurred within our lifetime

Prospective Memory (Short-term)

  • Day-to-day memory function
  • Heavy drinking tends to affect prospective memory more often

Effects of Drinking on Prospective Memory Performance in College Students

The study took a look at prospective memory (PM), which is the ability for us to remember to carry out something that we intended to at a later time, and examined the effects of heavy alcohol consumption on PM functioning in college students.   

How the Study was Conducted

The study took 123 college students ranging in age from 19-23 and had their drinking patterns evaluated over a 6 month period that placed them in 4 different categories from non-drinker up to the heavy drinker. They were then brought in for a day of testing for both their prospective and retrospective memory.    

Results of the Study

Those classified as heavy drinkers were more likely to forget to perform time-based prospective memory tasks and performed worse on event-based tasks. 

Real-world Conclusions

Heavy alcohol consumption is not just college students but a majority of people may be related to impairments in prospective memory. This can lead to people forgetting daily routines which can be critical in some cases. 

Heavy Alcohol Consumptions Effects on Cognitive Performance

A systemic review was conducted to see whether heavy alcohol consumption the night before can lead to hindering effects on cognitive abilities such as spatial, visual, memory, information processing speed, reaction times, and intellectual processing.  

After scouring databases for information, the review revealed that real impairments were shown in short-term memory, long-term memory, psychomotor speed, and attention span while noting that driving was a particular task that revealed a lot of issues. 


While the effects are different for everyone, studies have correlated a pattern between heavy alcohol consumption and deficits in our working memory which can be harmful in many ways if you are not being careful.