Alcohol Hits Harder with Age

When a person is young, their bodies can more easily face the unhealthy effects of alcohol. There are times of course when a teen or young adult might drink excessive amounts of alcohol and suffer from alcohol poisoning. But for the most part, young people can handle the unhealthy ways that alcohol affects the body. As one gets older, however, the body handles alcohol differently, and this may be important for anyone over 65 years of age to remember.

The pressures to drink don’t stop with adolescence. There can be pressure to have a drink in your hand at business meetings, parties, and during retirement. According to U.S. News, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognized a growing problem with alcohol abuse among those over 65 years of age. It’s an “invisible epidemic” SAMHSA called it.

One of the biggest problems is that because alcohol impairs the body in more significant ways with age, drinking can bring more serious consequences. Aging can lower a person’s body tolerance to alcohol. This can mean that older adults feel the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger. And this can create incredible risks for an elderly person to experience falls, car accidents, and other forms of accidental harm.

To make matters worse, there are more and more people aging with the baby boomer population. For instance, the 65-and-older population is estimated to be at about 83 million people by the year 2050. And in 4 years – by the year 2020 – the baby boomers will help double the rate of those over the age of 50 who have an addiction, raising it from 2.8 million in 2006 to 5.7 million in 2020. Furthermore, the resources for providing treatment for addiction, especially among the elderly, will have to expand in order to meet the projected needs of those addicted to alcohol and drugs.

And when it comes to those over 65 years of age, it’s  not only treating addiction, but it’s also treating the illnesses that come with addiction – or that have been made worse because of alcohol use. For instance, drinking alcohol for a long period of time in one’s life can affect coordination, thiamine deficiency, and other forms of poor nutrition. Alcoholism can lead to illnesses having to do with the heart, such as hypertension and an irregular heartbeat. It can also cause impotence, irregular menstrual cycles, pancreatitis, stroke, confusion, and amnesia. Other illness associated with chronic drinking include:

  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Gout
  • High blood Pressure
  • Nerve Damage

Furthermore, because many elderly men and women already have health concerns, they may be taking medication and undergoing forms of medical treatment. The mixture of medication and alcohol can also be a concern. In fact, it can create internal bleeding and heart problems, among other risks.

If you or someone you know is over the age of 65 and drinking alcohol on a regular basis, seek professional help. Without alcohol, those in the latter part of life can think clearly, experience less health problems, and have more energy. If you’re drinking, speak to your doctor or mental health professional for assistance.


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