The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that adults of any age can have problems with alcohol.
In general, older adults don't drink as much as younger people, but they can still have trouble with drinking. As people get older, their bodies change. They can develop health problems or chronic diseases.
They may take more medications than they used to. All of these changes can make alcohol use a problem for older adults
A recent article in the Palm Beach Post noted that older Americans are collectively becoming one of the nation’s biggest abuse problems, and this is according to several recent studies. This population is even outpacing binge-drinking college kids whose drinking habits have long been a documented concern.
According to a 2014 study in the peer-reviewed specialty journal, Addiction, there are an estimated 2.8 million older adults in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse. By the year 2020 — a mere four years away — that number is expected to reach 5.7 million,
The NIH notes that limited research suggests that sensitivity to alcohol's health effects may increase with age. As people age, there is a decrease in the amount of water in the body, so when older adults drink, there is less water in their bodies to dilute the alcohol that is consumed. This causes older adults to have a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) than younger people after consuming an equal amount of alcohol.
This means that older adults may experience the effects of alcohol, such as slurred speech and lack of coordination, more readily than when they were younger. An older person can develop problems with alcohol even though his or her drinking habits have not changed.
Why is this of major concern? The NUH notes that excessive drinking can cause or worsen health problems. They note that:
- Drinking too much alcohol can cause health problems. Heavy drinking over time can damage the liver, the heart, and the brain. It can increase the risk of developing certain cancers and immune system disorders as well as damage muscles and bones.
- Drinking too much alcohol can make some health conditions worse. These conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, and memory problems. Other health issues include mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Adults with major depression are more likely than adults without major depression to have alcohol problems.
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