Alcohol abuse is one of the most serious problems in public health and the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is one of the gravest consequences of alcoholism. The pathology is often undiagnosed in its less evident presentations, therefore an accurate diagnostic approach is a critical step in treatment planning. Treatment is based on restoration of thiamine, although this is insufficient to prevent the psychological decline of a great number of patients. The cognitive impact of the pathology is derived from the interaction of alcoholic neurotoxicity, thiamine deficiency and personal susceptibility. In this article, the literature concerning Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is reviewed.