A disturbing trend growing among adults age 60 and older is arousing concern. Alcohol and prescription drug abuse rates are soaring among adults in this age range, and the causes may have a lot to do with the way our bodies handle drugs and alcohol as we get older. There is also concern that many doctors are not taking age into consideration when prescribing drugs to their age 60 and older patients.
Recent research on late-onset alcoholism and addiction has revealed that older adults may be more sensitive to drugs and alcohol than previously thought. As the rate of alcohol and drug abuse among this age group continues to climb, it becomes even more critical for the public to understand what factors contribute to late set alcoholism and addiction, and what can be done about it.
According to The National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence, late-onset alcoholism is one of the biggest concerns in the country today. Some of the factors that contribute to it include medical issues, changes in body metabolism, psychological and social factors, stress, mixing alcohol with medications, and a previous history of heavy drinking. Metabolism naturally slows down as a person gets older, making it easier for drugs or alcohol to stay in the body longer than it does with a younger person. The filtration functions of the kidneys also slow down with age, making it easier for the body to become dehydrated and for the effects of drugs or alcohol to be stronger.
There are also many social and psychological factors that older adults have to face that are already difficult on their own. Factors such as financial issues, stress, and anxiety about retirement, dealing with the deaths of friends and family members, and losing the ability to take care of oneself. All of these things can cause an increase in alcohol or drug use. There are also medical issues to be aware of. Some of the most common of these include chronic pain, menopause, losing mobility, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. Many older adults feel overwhelmed, scared, and lost, and may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Daily use of prescription drugs coupled with alcohol consumption is also quite common.
Health care providers often don’t notice or misdiagnose late set alcoholism or addiction because it can be easy to mistake the factors and symptoms for common disorders such as dementia or depression. Older adults who use alcohol or drugs to cope are often afraid to talk about their problem because they’re afraid of what others will think, or they feel ashamed.
It’s important for older adults, their family members, and health care providers to be aware of late-onset alcoholism and addiction, and to learn how to recognize the signs. An older adult needs to know what medications can and can’t be mixed with alcohol, and it’s up to their health care provider to make sure their patients are aware of the dangers. Drinking also needs to monitored, so that it stays at a healthy level. Because the body changes so much as we age, the way we drink also needs to be adjusted. Making sure that older adults are aware of how alcohol and drugs affect their health will hopefully make late-onset alcoholism and addiction less of a problem.