• For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:

    (800) 526-5053

  • As you may know, drinking alcohol can cause impairment and motor incoordination. However, you may not realize that this affects the tissue in the part of your brain called the cerebellum, which is known as the “little brain” and is responsible for a variety of functions. 

    Excessive alcohol use may cause alcoholic cerebellar degeneration, a cerebellar disease.

    Alcoholic cerebellar degeneration is one of the common ways tissue in the brain is damaged. This is known as cerebellar ataxia. Chronic alcoholism can lead to ataxia in the cerebellum. 

    Chronic alcoholics may be at higher risk for developing alcoholic cerebellar degeneration due to regular or chronic alcohol abuse.

    Alcohol’s Effects On The Brain

    Alcohol targets the central nervous system of the body, causing impairment and loss of motor functions. Heavy drinkers have an increased risk of falling and other accidents. Those who drink in excess may suffer a more serious form of impairment such as cerebellar degeneration.

    This is due to alcohol consumption that affects both motor and cognitive processes. This type of brain damage may result in the following:

    • dysarthria (slurred or irregular speech)
    • poor control of posture
    • ataxia (unsteady movements)
    • gaze nystagmus (uncontrollable eye movements)
    • acute cerebellar lesions

    The anterior superior vermis is the brain tissue that receives structural damage due to alcohol use. This area may also develop shrinkage of cells.

    Later Stages Of Cerebellar Degeneration

    Since nerve cells in the cerebellum communicate with nerve cells in the spinal cord and brainstem, other parts of the body are likely affected due to the degeneration. 

    For instance, you can see abnormalities with your posture as well as your lower and upper limbs. In severe cases, those with cerebellar degeneration may develop movement impairment.

    Cerebellar atrophy may develop in the late stages of the cerebellum degeneration process. This specifically causes the loss of Purkinje cells, which are large nerve cells in the central part of the cerebellum that separates the left/right hemisphere of the brain (which is called the vermis). 

    Seeing A Doctor

    Doctors may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) to determine the state of your cerebellar vermis. 

    Doctors who see alcoholic patients will likely search for a gait ataxia imbalance. Before coming to any conclusion, your health care provider may want to rule out other potential problems.

    Family History Of Alcohol-Related Problems

    Doctors will ask if you have a family history of alcohol abuse or alcohol-related neuropathology in order to determine if the symptoms you’re experiencing are from cerebellar degeneration caused by alcohol.

    Even though spinocerebellar ataxia is a rare disease, it can cause a variety of symptoms such as dysarthria (slurred or dysfunction of speech), ataxia, and peripheral neuropathy. This disease causes similar symptoms as cerebellar degeneration. 


    Since cerebellar degeneration causes a thiamine deficiency, treatment may consist of receiving thiamine, B12 vitamins for any malnutrition you’ve suffered, as well as physical therapy to assist with body movement.

    If you’re concerned about your alcohol intake, contact our helpline. One of our specialists will be more than happy to help answer your questions and find a treatment program that’s right for you.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcohol Health & Research World - Alcohol and the Cerebellum
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Excessive Alcohol Use
    Journal of Korean Medical Science - Early Stage of Alcoholic Cerebellar Degeneration
    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke - Cerebellar Degeneration Information
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Acute Cerebellar Ataxia

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 30, 2022
    Questions About Treatment?

    Ark Behavioral Health offers 100% confidential substance abuse assessment and treatment placement tailored to your individual needs. Achieve long-term recovery.

    100% confidential. We respect your privacy.
    Prefer Texting?
    We've got you covered.

    Receive 24/7 text support right away.
    There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.


    For Immediate Treatment Help Call 800-526-5053