Spirits have been enjoyed in America since its founding. Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have famous quotes expressing their enjoyment of wine. Even in the prohibition era, alcoholic beverages were widely enjoyed, in spite of being illegal. The question that is valid to ask for residents of Country Club At Woodland Hills is whether alcohol consumption is safe to enjoy in spite of taking needed medications or dealing with physical limitations. Sadly, alcohol problems among adults 60 and older is a health problem that is among the fastest growing in the U.S., according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD).
What Statistics Say
There are numerous statistics which indicate that a significant number of senior citizens in the U.S. have some sort of drinking problem. According to the American Geriatrics Society and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “risky drinking” for people 65 and older is when more than seven alcoholic beverages are consumed weekly or when more than three drinks are consumed on a single day. The groups recommend that the limit for a single-occasion drink should be two for men and one for women.
Of all Medicare beneficiaries of retirement age or older, 9% consume more than 30 drinks per month and more than four alcoholic beverages on any one occasion. A recent study shows that 4 of 5 seniors who seek treatment for substance abuse are dealing with problems related to alcohol as opposed to other types of drugs.
Many experts believe that feelings of isolation are behind much of the heavy drinking seniors engage in. Life can have many stressors for people of advanced age, and alcohol is often relied upon to numb fears, anxieties, and loneliness.
Negative Effects of Drinking
As suggested in the Ben Franklin quote above, it is possible to enjoy alcohol without suffering harmful effects. Excessive alcohol, however, adversely affects all organ systems. Unfortunately, older people are especially vulnerable to adverse effects of drinking, due to such results as falling and experiencing delirium. Drinking too much alcohol over an extended period is also associated with the following:
- Liver damage, brain damage, cancer, and immune system disorders.
- Doctors may have a more difficult time diagnosing and treating health problems, partly because alcohol changes blood vessels and the heart. Pain that could warn of a heart attack may be dulled.
- Health conditions such as diabetes, ulcers, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis can be worsened.
- Older people may become confused and forgetful, symptoms, which are often mistaken for signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Alcohol and Taking Medications
It can be dangerous, even deadly, to mix alcohol with some medicines, including over-the-counter and prescription meds as well as herbal remedies. Many seniors take medicines daily, which makes it especially risky to drink alcohol. Anyone who takes medications should consult with a doctor or pharmacist before including alcohol consumption in the mix. The following are examples of problems caused by mixing medicines with alcohol consumption:
- Your risk of intestinal or stomach bleeding is increased if you mix taking aspirin with drinking alcohol.
- If alcohol is combined with large doses of the common painkiller acetaminophen, the result could be liver damage.
- You can become very sleepy if you combine alcohol with allergy and cold medicines.
- Cough syrups, laxatives, and other types of medication are often high in alcohol content. If you drink alcohol also, the level of your alcohol consumption is increased.
- It can be deadly to combine alcohol with some types of pain pills, sleeping pills, and anti-depression or anxiety medications.
When is Drinking a Concern?
Problems with alcohol can be difficult to pinpoint. For instance, not every person who drinks daily has a drinking problem. On the other hand, not all alcoholics have a drink every day. An indication that alcohol may be a problem is:
- If you hide or lie about your drinking;
- If you drink more than three drinks in one day or more than seven in a week; or
- If you harm others when drinking.
Tips on Quitting or Cutting Back on Drinking
It’s never too late to quit drinking, if you have a problem with it. Effective 12-step programs are available to help you quit, and you can discuss any drinking problem you may have with a doctor or counselor. The following are a few tips on shifting your life away from consuming alcohol:
- Develop new interests that don’t involve drinking.
- Avoid places and people that could trigger your drinking.
- Be sure you are well occupied during times of day in which you are usually triggered to drink.
- Make a plan for what to do if you are strongly tempted to drink.
- Be prepared to say, “No, thanks” when offered an alcoholic beverage.
- Get healthy and enjoy life.
There are many healthy activities that can help you move beyond drinking problems at Country Club At Woodland Hills. Contact us at 918.221.7064 for details about our beautiful facilities, senior living programs, and community today.