Can Alcohol Cause Numbness In Extremities?

Addressing the frequently asked questions dealing with addiction


I am a 57 year old retired executive. I have been a social drinker all my life but since retiring, I have upped my drinking to about 8 or so ounces of vodka spread over the day. About three months ago, I noticed a kind of numbness in my feet. Is this from alcohol? The doctor says it is.


I believe your doctor is right. Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the nerve fibers in the legs and arms. Alcohol can cause the degeneration of the myelin insulation of the nerve fiber as the nerve dies back from the feet and hands toward the upper leg and arm. Also, painful feet and weakness of the thigh muscle are part of the progression of this alcoholic polyneuropathy. Alcohol is the cause—no alcohol is the treatment.

"Sober Days" ran in the Palm Springs daily newspaper, the Desert Sun, for several years in the 1990s-2000s. The popular Q&A column was written by Dr. James West, the Betty Ford Center's first medical director. He remained with the Betty Ford Center until 2007, when he retired at age 93.

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