A recent study conducted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reveals alcohol abuse is on the rise amongst the over 60s. This is a condition known as ‘late-onset alcoholism.’ Many of these people affected by alcoholism later in life did not drink an excessive amount of alcohol beforehand. Many elderly people take to the bottle in order to reduce boredom, manage physical pain or to help get them to sleep at night.
Although studies indicate moderate drinking may decrease the risk of heart disease, people over sixty who drink more than two drinks a day risk a variety of alcohol-induced health ailments. This is because the human body's ability to cope with alcohol deteriorates as we age.
Since our ageing population continues to grow each year, the Government is urged do something about late-onset alcoholism if a national health crisis is to be avoided.
Although the NCADD’s study analysed US data, the situation is thought to be the same here in the United Kingdom. Some of the key facts highlighted in NCADD’s study include:
The elderly are susceptible to alcoholism for a range of factors including :
Below we outline some of the dangers faced by the elderly who choose to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
One danger relates to falling over whilst intoxicated. Studies reveal hip fractures are more common in the elderly who regularly consume alcohol.
Another danger faced by the elderly who choose to drink an excessive amount of alcohol is being involved in a vehicle accident. Your likelihood of being involved in a vehicle accident increases when you hit 55. By the time you are 80, you are statistically more likely to cause a vehicle accident than a new driver. No matter what your age, drinking and driving significantly increase the odds of being involved in a vehicle accident. However, these risks are considerably higher for the over 65s.
Another risk of excessive drinking relates to prescription drugs. In the United Kingdom, people over the age of 65 consume two to six prescription drugs each day. Mixing alcohol with these medications could have deadly consequences. Alcohol may make these medications less effective by breaking them down in the blood. Alternatively, alcohol may increase their strength to dangerous levels. This is because alcohol is a diuretic and dehydrates the blood. Less available water generally increases the strength of prescription medications since they are now less diluted in the bloodstream. Alcohol is particularly deadly when it is mixed with sleeping pills.
One study reveals the elderly who regularly drink alcohol are three times more likely to suffer from clinical depression when compared to the elderly who do not drink at all. Another study reveals elderly who suffer from alcoholism are sixteen times more likely to die because of suicide.
Alcoholism degrades the elderly's behavioural and cognitive functioning. Alcoholism even leads to premature ageing of the brain. One study revealed alcoholism-induced brain tissue loss is more prevalent amongst older people who abuse alcohol than younger people. This includes shrinkage of the brain's frontal lobes.
Drinking alcohol can also promote cancer and worsen diabetes.
Since alcoholism makes the elderly confused and forgetful, alcoholism may lead to an incorrect diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.
If you are an elderly person who suffers from alcoholism then it’s essential you inform your family immediately. You are also advised to inform your GP. You should also consider attending an AA or SMART Recovery group in your local area.