A study published in the March issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research reported that alcohol abuse can dampen the sense of smell. Researchers from the University Clinics of Innsbruck studied the sense of smell in 30 alcoholics and 30 healthy people who were matched for age, gender and smoking status. They used "Sniffin' Sticks", which are pen-like devices that dispense odour, to test each nostril at a time. The subjects were tested for odour threshold (sensitivity), the lowest concentration of an odour where a faint presence is reliably detected, the ability to distinguish between smells and the ability to recognize the name of an odour with the help of response clues. Researchers found that sense of smell was diminished in 57 per cent of the alcoholics.
Alcohol abuse has been known in the past to lead to Korsakoff's syndrome, a severe mental disorder that leads to memory loss and disorientation. People with this syndrome also had problems with the ability to smell.