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Senior Alcohol and Drug Abuse

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

senior-alcohol-and-drug-abuse

Senior Citizen Alcohol and Drug Abuse

This article addresses senior citizens drinking alcohol that interacts negatively with their medications. This is a serious problem for senior citizens (people over age 60 years) around the world. The warning signs of drug abuse are listed, as well as, the signs of an alcoholic drinker.

People drink more alcohol for a variety of reasons, like isolation, loneliness, boredom or when they are in pain. Even a small amount of alcohol for seniors can result in falls and fractures, plus automobile accidents if they choose to drive.

Statistics

Typically, when we think of alcohol and drug abuse we think of young people or even middle-aged people, but we really do not consider the problem for our senior citizens. Yet, substance abuse in older adults is one of the fastest growing health problems in the United States as it affects up to 17% of senior citizens, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The U.S. has seen this problem steadily increase as an average of 5.7 million senior citizens in 2020, suffer from substance abuse, whether it is alcohol or drugs. This is also a problem worldwide, especially in the more wealthy countries.

Surprisingly there are more people over age 65 admitted to hospitals for alcoholism than there are for heart attacks. Medication misuse causes 25% of nursing home patient admissions. One half of those hospitalized for adverse prescription drug reactions are people over age 65. It is estimated that somewhere between 40% to 90% of seniors do not follow prescription medication directions.

senior-alcohol-and-drug-abuse

Warning Signs

The warning signs for alcohol and drug abuse include;

  • memory loss or confusion
  • decrease in normal social and recreational activities
  • inability to complete routines
  • decline in personal hygiene
  • slurred speech
  • excessive drowsiness
  • decreased appetite
  • unexplained hostility or defensiveness
  • frequent injuries/accidents
  • irritability, sadness, depression
  • loss of coordination (walking unsteadily, frequent falls)
  • unexplained chronic pain
  • changes in eating habits
  • wanting to stay alone a lot of the time

Geriatric Alcohol Use Disorder

Risk Factors

The warning signs for alcohol and drug abuse include;

  • memory loss or confusion
  • decrease in normal social and recreational activities
  • inability to complete routines
  • decline in personal hygiene
  • slurred speech
  • excessive drowsiness
  • decreased appetite
  • unexplained hostility or defensiveness
  • frequent injuries/accidents
  • irritability, sadness, depression
  • loss of coordination (walking unsteadily, frequent falls)
  • unexplained chronic pain
  • changes in eating habits
  • wanting to stay alone a lot of the time
senior-alcohol-and-drug-abuse

SAMHSA’s National Helpline and More

SAMHSA's National Helpline is available 24/7 everyday year round, and it is in English and Spanish. This site is for individuals or family members who are dealing with substance abuse or even mental disorders. Their number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Their service is confidential and you do not need insurance.

Their trained specialists will transfer you to state services or appropriate intake centers in your state. They provide support and assistance to get the help necessary for a chance at recovery. They know which facilities require health insurance. In addition, they have several free publications, which can answer some of your questions. In 2020, they received 833,598 calls.

Australia has a website calle DrinkWise.org. This site lists numerous places to find help if alcohol or drugs are a problem.

The UK has a website call Addiction Center and it lists many options for treatment.,

India has the National Health Portal (NHP) that lists alcoholism as a problem, and it offers a great deal of information, and it lists other places to get information.

Addiction and Recovery for Older Adults

In Conclusion

There are many associations in cities around the United States that work to help people with addiction problems, so if you have a family member that you suspect is abusing alcohol and/or drugs, pick up the phone and call for help. There is treatment worldwide for alcohol/drug addiction.

Seniors may need to be in drug/alcohol rehabilitation in order to live or at least have a better quality of life. Alcohol problems do not know social boundaries, the color of your skin doesn't matter; you may be in any socioeconomic group and have this disease.

References

Senior Alcohol/drug Abuse

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 17, 2021:

Hi Bill,

We don't think of anyone over 90 drinking too much alcohol, but everything I read sure said it happens. The resulting problems can be numerous.

I am glad you found this article to be informative. I appreciate your comments. Thank you for the congratulations.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 17, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

I agree with your reasoning as many are alone, even if they are in assisted living. It surely is a wakeup call for some.

I am glad you like the article. I appreciate all of your comments.

Thank you for the congratulations. I never expected to win that award.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 16, 2021:

Congratulations, Pam, on the Hubble Award, well deserved. Substance abuse in seniors is a big, big problem. Most of the symptoms you have listed I have seen in family members. I found it difficult to believe how much they drank at a very senior age, over 90. And of course it led to all sorts of issues, many of which you listed. Great job.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 16, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

Thank you for the congrats. It was sure a surprise.

I agree with your comments about the additions being scary. I am glad you found this information in this article to be helpful. I appreciate your comments.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 16, 2021:

Pamela

I suppose this is easy for some seniors to fall into.

It's hard being alone & then the pain that often comes along with our aging bones.

I can see how this might take the edge off of it.

I never considered that as a reason for the falls, but it's a wake up call to pay more attention.

Great article & congratulations again on Hubbie Award.

Truly an honor you deserve.

Adrienne Farricelli on September 16, 2021:

Congrats on the award Pam! This is an important article to help those suffering from alcohol and drug abuse in their senior years. Thank you for helping out those suffering from this and providing them with helpful resources. It is scary the amount of problems that can occur when these two addictions combine.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 16, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

Thank you for the congratulations.

I think it is good to be informed even if you don't know anyone like that right now. I appreciate your comments, as always.

Rosina S Khan on September 15, 2021:

Congratulations, Pamela, on winning the Hubbie award. This article sure is helpful for many. Although I may not know any such senior citizen, many others may know relatives and friends in the category, and this article is certainly beneficial for them. Thanks for another wonderful medical article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 15, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am glad you find the article to be informational. I appreciate your comments and the congratulations.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 14, 2021:

This is an informative and useful article, like all your medical ones. Congratulations on your Hubbie Award, Pamela!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Thank you for the congratulations. This was sure a surprise.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Shauna,

All the things you listed may be probable causes for an increase in alcohol consumption. Mixing some medications and alcohol can be dangerous for sure, depending on the medication.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments, as always.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 14, 2021:

Yes, if I haven't already done do, congratulations on your awesome win, Pamela. Whoo hoo!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 14, 2021:

I think several things may lead to seniors drinking more than when they were younger. 1. No longer having a time clock to answer to; not having to be at work early in the morning; 2. Having more time to socialize with peers i.e. playing golf, long casual lunches, etc.; 3. Having more time to yourself and fewer responsibilities (can you say 'day drinking'?)

Of course, mixing alcohol with prescription medications is never a good idea. Read the labels carefully before imbibing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Mel,

Thank you for your congrats. This honor was sure a surprise to me, and I am grateful.

I don't see a problem with an 81 year old woman who does not drive to have a happy hour drink. If she is still drinking at 3 AM I would question that. I think you make a good point about seniors stuck in nursing homes, or even assisted living. The seniors need some loving support, like everyone.

Thank you for your generous comments. They are always appreciated.

Congratulations for your Hubbie award, as your sense of humor is always reflected in your articles.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Miebakagh,

I think water with lime is a very healthy choice. I am glad you found this article educational.

Thank you very much for your comments.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 14, 2021:

First of all, congratulations on your coveted and prestigious hubbie award. I am thrilled for you.

Maybe I am acting as the devil's advocate here, but my 81 year old Mother still likes to have her happy hour every afternoon. She's legally blind, so she can't crash a car into any innocent pedestrians, and she's in an assisted living facility, where the only person she can injure is herself. If she was 50, I might be tempted to tell her to take it easy on the sauce, (she only tips a couple), but she's 81.

We stick the seniors in a nursing home where we often forget about them, or even if they live independently we forget about them, so is it any wonder they resort to alcohol to ease the loneliness? Maybe the real problem is just being thoughtless with our elderly loved ones. I count myself among the guilty, in this respect.

Anyway, very thought-provoking, soul-searching work here. Congrats again on your award.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 14, 2021:

I hardly drink alchohol. It impair the senses. Plain water flavored with lime is okay for me. Thanks for the educating read.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Linda,

You very well may be right about retirement and depression. There is no way to really know at this time. I also think the isolation of Covid is a factor.

Also, people are living longer so there is a larger elderly population. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Ms Dora,

You are absolutely right, and we should look out for each other. Knowing the signs and symptoms is important.

I appreciate all of your thoughtful comments.

Congratulations to you as well for your Hubbie awards, and they are certainly well-deserved.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 14, 2021:

Pamela, this is probably more of a problem than most people realize. I wonder if the problem can start when a person retires? So many people find their identity in their profession, and when they no longer have that they slip into depression. The isolation of COVID probably doesn't help either. Thank you for shining a light on this issue.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 14, 2021:

First, CONGRATULATIONS on your Best All-Round Hubber Award. You've been dishing out quality article with helpful information and advice all year. You deserve the recognition.

Thanks for bringing this alcohol and drug abuse situation to our awareness. We seniors must learn to manage our golden years with healthy options. Thanks for the signs and symptoms to help us look out for each other.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2021:

Thanks Pamela. You certainly deserve your "Best All-Around Hubber" award! Congratulations again!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I think alcohol sales may be up for that reason, and maybe some depression about the lock down. I agree about the importance of knowing the effects of your medications with alcohol.

Thank you for your comments. I want to congratulate you for your Hubbie award. Your pictures are always excellent, so you deserve that award.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2021:

Supposedly, alcohol sales are way up during the pandemic. Perhaps that is because people were not going to restaurants as regularly, and were buying more wine, etc., to drink at home. Your mention of alcohol not mixing with many medications is important for people to know. Seniors need to be aware of that. Thanks for your continual work about keeping people informed about medical issues.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I am glad you found this article indo rmative and interesting. I'm glad you learned some new things.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

Much love and blessings to you!

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on September 14, 2021:

Extremely interesting and informative article. Always an interesting read from you. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I have learned a lot from your article today. Very well Written and in depth. I appreciate your efforts.

God bless you. Amen! Take care and stay healthy.

Many Blessings and Love as always!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I know you understand the disease. I am sure these lockdowns are one of the reasons more seniors are drinking.

I appreciate your comments. I was surprised to win that award, and I appreciate your congrats.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

As a recovering alcoholic, I understand this disease. It comes as no surprise that there are so many seniors abusing alcohol. Excellent article and, before I forget, congratulations on the Hubbie Award. Well-deserved!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi MG,

There is another wrong with social drinking. It is only a problem when people get drunk repeatedly. Unfortunately, it is a more common problem than it once was.

Also, some people abuse there medications, or buy drugs illegally. I'm not sure how much of a problem drugs are in India.

Thanks for your comments, as they are always appreciated.

MG Singh from UAE on September 14, 2021:

This is a nice article but drinking is something which is very common and mostly I find it is social drinking but people who drink to get drunk are the ones to watch out for. thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Fran,

I think the fact that so many seniors are on so much medicine is a factor. I am glad you found this article informative.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you are having a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

Your comment about age is so true. I think most of us know someone who is probably drinking too much,.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you are having a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

I agree with your comments, which are plentiful. I know more people drink due to the Covid restrictions. I also think complacency if a factor.

When I look at the Taliban I see hate and greed, certainly not love. This global issue probably does not have a happy outcome. Where is the U.S. headed. I think it is a scary time in many ways, but alcohol does not solve anything.

I appreciate all of your comments. You make several good points. Thank you and take care.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Glen,

I have read that a glass of red wine is healthy. Many people do have stomach problems with alcohol consumption.

I am glad you found this article to be useful. I think most of know someone sho became alcohol dependent. I appreciate your comments.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on September 14, 2021:

Wow, Pamela, how many of us would realize seniors would have this problem. I agree that medications misuse is a serious problem and interacts with alcohol. Thank you for your article.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 14, 2021:

This is an enlightening article and seeing the list of symptoms reminds me of someone I know. Just because one ages doesn't mean all the health problems are physical in nature. Thanks for presenting this information. The statistics are compelling.

manatita44 from london on September 14, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

While it is never a bad thing to highlight the problem with alcohol, as you've done, and to a certain extent, drugs, I rather suspect, that in this 21st Century, many of us know. So then why are we doing it?

You have highlighted some reasons, risk-factors and so forth and done a marvelous job. There's a lot of stress, vulnerability and loss of sense of direction. We just don't know where we are going and people are afraid. Naturally.

Does alcohol solve the problem? No, but we would rather bask in it to sleep off the struggles even if momentarily. Now the microcosm is the same as the macrocosm and sometimes you don't need to look further than Forums or certain articles, to see the darkness.

Love is necessary, but my learned friend says he doesn't see the Taliban understanding that. Why the Taliban? Lack of Love and excess of greed and exploitation is a global issue.

Our souls tell us there is a problem and we are saying that we don't know how to fix it. We are not short of scriptures East or West and we are not short of noble men and women, coming into the world.

Complacency is a big one. I hit you on the hand with a hammer constantly and knowing I will continue, you find a way to live with it and carry on. Sorry Pamela, I digress a bit, but hopefully some will learn from what we are both saying. We will only solve problems, by addressing the roots of struggle. Excellent work!

Glen Rix from UK on September 14, 2021:

A useful article, Pamela. My late father-in-law became alcohol dependent towards the end of his life. Personally, I very rarely drink alcohol, largely because it irritates my stomach nowadays. But I did start to have an occasional glass of red wine during lockdown. I imagine the isolation caused many people to drink more than they usually do. We are told a small glass of red wine has a beneficial effect on health - just don’t overdo it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2021:

Hi Eric,

The fact that the number of addicted people is increasing is alarming, That is why I thought this article was important.

It is so good to have you back. I appreciate your comments, as always my friend. Take care!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 14, 2021:

This is really a good article. I learned a lot and it makes me consider the issue more carefully. I wonder who I know that could use some nudging to help themselves.

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