Most people are aware of the common health risks associated with aging – cancer, dementia, diabetes and heart disease. However, there is another condition on the rise for seniors that is unsuspecting and often overlooked by family, friends and healthcare professionals: alcohol abuse.
In “Alcohol Abuse is Rising Among Older Adults,” the New York Times reports that drinking is rising quickly for older Americans. A 10-year study has found that the number of older adults engaged in “high-risk drinking” has increased by a staggering 65%.
The study defined “high-risk” as a man who consumes five or more drinks in a day and a woman who consumes four or more drinks in a day on a weekly basis during the past year.
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The rate at which seniors are drinking has increased by 22% over 10 years, “the greatest rise in any age group,” the study found.
There are a variety of factors contributing to the rise in senior alcohol abuse, Alcohol Rehab Guide suggests:
The New York Times article also points to anxiety caused by the recession, which occurred between the two surveys as a potential contributing factor.
Many problems associated with alcohol consumption in older adults stem from the physiological changes seniors experience. The New York Times reports how the body handles alcohol can change with age, for example:
Alcohol can also interact with medications often prescribed to seniors. According to Alcohol Rehab Guide, when over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions are mixed with alcohol, the concoction can lead to dangerous falls, heart problems, high blood pressure, liver damage or death.
With these trends, it’s no surprise that emergency room visits are on the rise for alcohol-related injuries. Arm and hip fractures from falls and deaths from liver cirrhosis are the highest they have been since the 1960s. As the New York Times points out, “while two drinks a night at age 40 might not be an issue, two daily drinks at 70 is more complicated.”
Alcohol Rehab Guide reports the following common signs of alcohol abuse in seniors:
There is a common misconception that seniors cannot (or will not) change their ways to overcome alcohol dependency.
However, the New York Times sourced a study that concluded seniors have the same or better success rates as younger drinkers, and were far more likely to adhere to treatment.
The best treatment option for seniors struggling with alcohol abuse is a geriatric substance abuse recovery program that offers a dual treatment approach for both addiction-recovery and medical conditions. Facilities such as these offer coordinated treatment among:
If you suspect a senior loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, speak with a professional today about treatment and support options.