Alcohol Abuse

Aging and Alcohol Abuse 

Anyone at any age can have a drinking problem. Great Uncle George may have always been a heavy drinker--his family may find that as he gets older the problem gets worse. Grandma Betty may have been a teetotaler all her life, just taking a drink "to help her get to sleep" after her husband died--now she needs a couple of drinks to get through the day. These are common stories. Drinking problems in older people are often neglected by families, doctors, and the public.

Physical Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol slows down brain activity. Because alcohol affects alertness, judgment, coordination, and reaction time--drinking increases the risk of falls and accidents. Some research has shown that it takes less alcohol to affect older people than younger ones. Over time, heavy drinking permanently damages the brain and central nervous system, as well as the liver, heart, kidneys, and stomach. Alcohol’s effects can make some medical problems hard to diagnose. For example, alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels that can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack. It also can cause forgetfulness and confusion, which can seem like Alzheimer’s disease.

Mixing Drugs

Alcohol, itself a drug, is often harmful if mixed with prescription or over-the-counter medicines. This is a special problem for people over 65, because they are often heavy users of prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs.

Mixing alcohol with other drugs such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, pain killers, and antihistamines can be very dangerous, even fatal. For example, aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and intestines; when it is combined with alcohol, the risk of bleeding is much higher.

As people age, the body’s ability to absorb and dispose of alcohol and other drugs changes. Anyone who drinks should check with a doctor or pharmacist about possible problems with drug and alcohol interactions.

Who Becomes a Problem Drinker?

There are two types of problem drinkers--chronic and situational. Chronic abusers have been heavy drinkers for many years. Although many chronic abusers die by middle age, some live well into old age. Most older problem drinkers are in this group.

Other people may develop a drinking problem late in life, often because of "situational" factors such as retirement, lowered income, failing health, loneliness, or the death of friends or loved ones. At first, having a drink brings relief, but later it can turn into a problem.


How to Recognize a Drinking Problem

Not everyone who drinks regularly has a drinking problem. You might want to get help if you:

Getting Help

Older problem drinkers have a very good chance for recovery because once they decide to seek help, they usually stay with treatment programs. You can begin getting help by calling your family doctor or clergy member.

Your local health department or social services agencies can also help.

Natural Treatments:

Alcohol abuse damages the liver, pancreas, intestines and brain. Reversing that damage begins when you stop drinking and start eating a balanced diet that contains the Daily Values of certain nutrients. Here's what doctors say you need. If you can't get these amounts from your diet, a general multivitamin/mineral supplement may help.

NUTRIENTS, DAILY AMOUNTS AND APPLICATIONS

 

Diseases&Treatments

Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guide only.   This information is offered to you with the understanding that it not be interpreted as medical or professional advice.  All medical information needs to be carefully reviewed with your health care provider.

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