Older Alcohol Abusers Need Greater Support
“Binge drinking, even episodically or infrequently, may negatively affect other health conditions by exacerbating disease, interacting with prescribed medications and complicating disease management.”
~ Dr. Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, New York University
It’s an under-reported yet frightening trend — problematic binge and heavy drinking is increasing among older adults. As a result, they are suffering the highest rates of alcohol-related harm than ever:
- Hospital admissions
- Mental and behavioral disorders
Alcohol Abuse and Aging: The Statistics
The perception that dangerous heavy or binge drinking is a big problem among younger drinkers is not incorrect. After all, 38% of college-age adults admit to excessive drinking.
But while the rates of problem drinking within the older population, they are still high enough to be troubling — up to 1 in 10. Americans age 65 or older, according to a NYU study.
Dr. Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH an alcohol epidemiologist andProfessor with Boston University’s Schools of Medicine and Public Health, says that figure “is an impressive number and it’s concerning.”
But that number is “undoubtedly an underestimate,” Dr. Naimiadded, because people tend to grossly miscalculate how much they actually drink.
Recent research in England revealed worrisome trends that could have significant implications here in America:
- 1999-2006, the average weekly alcohol consumption for those between the ages of 45 and 64 rose by 85%.
- For people 65 and older, the increase was 50%.
- Among those between the ages of 16 and 24, the increase was “only” 45%
- These findings stayed consistent during follow-up research.
- Between 2001 and 2014, English men 70-74 and 80-84 experienced a 150% increase in alcohol-related deaths.
- Among English people age 60 and older, there are now more cases of alcohol-related behavioral and mental disorders than there are of alcoholic liver disease.
All of this is important because in addition to the usual hazards involving alcohol abuse — dependence, addiction, disruption of a normal life, health concerns, etc. — elderly alcoholics are also at greater risk of:
- Accidental overdoses involving drinking and prescription medications, especially opioid painkillers or benzodiazepine tranquilizers.
Why are Older Drinkers at Greater Risk for Alcohol Abuse?
Although drinkers of any age can develop unsafe drinking habits, there are several reasons why older people might tend to turn to the bottle more often:
- More disposable income
- Health problems
- Chronic pain
- Boredom during retirement
What Does this Mean to You?
Most of the public perception and the overall focus on substance abuse focuses on younger drinkers and drug users. But research such as this clearly shows that more attention also needs to be paid to people who are middle-aged or older.
If you live in the San Diego area …And you are worried about your alcohol consumption or that of an older relative, Lasting Recovery can help. And the top outpatient alcohol rehab program in San Diego, Lasting Recovery is your most trusted-resource to help you safely and successfully regain your sobriety.
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