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Effects of Alcohol More Pronounced in the Elderly

Alcoholism 6We normally expect members of the younger population to engage in risky drinking, but new evidence suggests that a growing number of seniors is also a part of this alarming trend. While many Americans consume alcohol, some feel the impact more than others. Similar to adolescents, the elderly may be more vulnerable to the dangerous effects of excess alcohol consumption.

According to a recent MNT report, of those who have reached retirement age, 13 percent of males and 8 percent of females admit to drinking in a fashion that could result in harm. Researchers from Baylor University have uncovered that even in relatively small amounts, alcohol can be dangerous for older people, causing problems with memory, learning, and coordination. Not surprisingly, the result has been an increased number of falls and other accidents as well as forgetting to take important (and sometimes lifesaving) medications.

Though both young people and seniors are particularly susceptible to alcohol misuse, research shows that the older generation is at greatest risk of impairment. The Baylor study is groundbreaking in that it’s the first to define a baseline for the acute impact of alcohol use on the elderly, which helps explain the neurobiology behind their heightened sensitivity to the drug.

One of the study authors, Dr. Jim Diaz-Granados, who also serves as chair of the department of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor says that there are many cognitive and behavioral changes that occur naturally with age. This explains why consumption by the aged results in a different alcohol-induced effect on the brain.

Investigators hope that the results will help pave the way for future research on the subject and aid in determining the long-term effects of alcohol misuse. With this information, the public can be properly educated with regard to alcohol’s risks on the elderly.

Do you or somebody you know engage in risky drinking behaviors? Learn the facts about alcohol use and age. Your local Family Guidance Center has more information on substance abuse programs as well as trained counselors who will assist your loved ones in working through difficult emotions, which often underlie contribute to dependency.


Elderly at Risk of Substance Abuse

Addiction 3For some, the golden years are anything but golden. In fact, they can be a time when many adults turn to substance abuse to deal with issues of anxiety and depression. Growing older and all the changes that come with it are not always pleasant, and without proper coping mechanisms, can lead to a higher risk for the abuse of alcohol or drugs.

The elderly deal with a range of issues that many of their younger counterparts have not yet had to experience. A number have lost their life partners and have struggled with intense loneliness. Others lack a sense of purpose upon retirement. Physical aches and pains and living on limited financial resources can also be a source of tremendous stress.

An article at Psych Central pointed out that in the five year period from 2002 to 2007, figures from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that the number of elderly adults engaging in illegal substance abuse has doubled. Experts are concerned about these increases as well as upsurges in the abuse of prescription drugs, which increased by nearly two percent from 2002 to 2009.

A survey originating from the Hanley Center, a rehab facility in Florida, revealed that close to 50 percent of respondents misused prescription medications and many others admitted to abusing drugs or alcohol. Dr. Barbara Krantz, the Hanley Center’s medical director, says that a number of factors come together at the same time, which pave the road for addiction.

According to the survey, 40 percent of participants said their dependency ensued as they approached the age of 50. Over 90 percent revealed that they had abused alcohol while nearly half reported misappropriation of prescription drugs.

The survey also showed that people often make the decision to get help based on the urgings of family. Because most substance abuse efforts target those who are young, many in the older generation tend to fall through the cracks. Family Guidance Center can help individuals and their families identify symptoms of underlying mental illness, such as depression or anxiety disorder, that may also coexist with substance abuse problems. For more information about services to help lead you out of dependency, including Addiction Treatment  services, contact the Family Guidance Center.