Imagine the following. When you’re asked to take a field sobriety test, it’s a grave — and sometimes very embarrassing — ordeal. Nevertheless, it’s not always evidence of deeper underlying problems, and it’s something that most younger individuals can bounce back from provided they take their recovery seriously. For older individuals, however, this, and many other seemingly simple signifiers, could be indicative of serious alcohol abuse, something that affects more seniors than you think. Here are some facts about alcohol abuse and the elderly that might surprise you.
It’s Not Just A Young Person’s Problem
Though the popular image of the alcoholic is more often than not someone who hasn’t quite reached middle age, the truth is that a significant portion of alcoholics don’t start until they’ve reached older ages. According to the American Addiction Centers, alcohol is number one for abused substances in individuals 65 and older. What’s more, alcohol abuse among the elderly is on the rise, with some startling statistics being reported in recent years.
Over one in ten seniors, for instance, are recent binge drinkers. One in forty have reported heavy drinking within the past month, and 1.6 percent have been officially diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder (to say nothing of the scores of undiagnosed that exist). These numbers alone are startling, but the serious effects alcohol can have on an elderly body are even more alarming.
How Alcohol Can Affect Senior Health
Alcohol affects the elderly more severely than it does younger individuals. As we age, our tolerance for alcohol decreases and our ability to break down alcohol diminishes. Hence, alcohol stays in the system longer, increasing the likelihood of alcohol poisoning among older individuals. What’s more, a lack of muscle, which is common in older individuals, makes it so that seniors experience the effects of alcohol much faster than a younger person who has greater lean body mass.
If that wasn’t enough, the strain of processing alcohol leads to numerous additional health detriments in older individuals. Dehydration, for instance, is more likely to occur in older individuals who abuse alcohol, which might be compounded by their natural tendency to retain less water than younger individuals on average.
Going further, alcohol can increase the severity of health problems that older individuals are more likely to experience, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and cognitive function, according to experts like Rocky Mountain memory care. It’s important for seniors to limit their consumption of alcohol, else run the risk of encountering serious side effects from indulging too heavily in drink.