An estimated 2.8 million older adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, and this number is expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, according to a study in the journal Addiction. National council on alcoholism.
Despite these staggering numbers, elderly alcoholism, which was reported to have reached epidemic levels in the United States, is "underestimated, under identified, underdiagnosed, and undertreated," the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) said in a fact sheet that takes a look at the trend.
Here's what the fact sheet tells us:
·, 6-11% of all elderly patients admitted to hospitals exhibit symptoms of alcoholism
·, 20% of all elderly patients admitted to psychiatric services exhibit symptoms of alcoholism
·, 14% of all elderly patients in emergency rooms exhibit symptoms of alcoholism
·, The prevalence of problem drinking in nursing homes is as high as 49% in some studies
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·, 17% (8 million) older adults abuse alcohol and drugs
·, Less than 2% of all admissions for alcohol and drug treatment are people over age 55, yet, 80% of all senior admissions were for alcohol as the primary drug
We know that heavy drinking is never good for anyone. But alcohol consumption may be even more dangerous for older people than for teens, resulting in greater impairment in coordination, learning and memory, according to a study by Baylor University. As one grows older, the amount of water in the body is decreased and alcohol becomes more concentrated. So, even at the same blood alcohol level, older people may feel the effects of drinking more dramatically than younger people.
Adds David Bohl, Executive Director of Kiva Recovery, a substance abuse and treatment center n Vernon Hills, "We also know that as people age, many of the long-term effects of alcohol use can take hold, exhibiting themselves in the form of liver disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and certain kinds of cancer. And, let's not forget the dangers of mixing alcohol with medication: People 65 and older consume more prescribed and over-the-counter medications than any other age group in the United States."
Another important issue is that signs of abuse can resemble common problems seen in the elderly, such as falls, cognitive impairment, insomnia and depression. Which is why the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration urges family and friends to watch for the following signs that could indicate a problem with substance abuse. While these are common problems in the elderly, they are NOT a result of normal aging:
·, Memory trouble after taking a drink or medication
·, Loss of coordination (walking unsteadily, frequent falls)
·, Changes in sleeping habits
·, Irritability, sadness, depression, unexplained chronic pain
·, Changes in eating habits
·, A desire to stay alone at lot of the time
·, Failure to bathe or keep clean
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·, Trouble finishing sentences, or trouble concentrating
·, Difficulty staying in touch with family or friends, lack of interest in usual activities
If a friend or family member shows any of these signs, encourage the person to talk with his/her health care provider. Or, reach out to a local drug and alcohol abuse treatment center. Their trained clinicians can help you determine how best to get your loved one the help s/he needs.
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