Monthly Theme - April

Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month began in April of 1987 in an effort to reach the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism. The following article illustrates the health problems often associated with alcohol abuse. 

The Trouble With Alcohol - A Health Hazard at any Age

The man is retired. Maybe he's spending more time socializing with friends. He's traveling, having a good time. He might not realize how much he's drinking.

She's retired and misses her job. Her children live far away. She has some health problems. And she seems to be using alcohol more often.

And they could both be headed for a lot of trouble with a drinking problem.

OLDER BODIES REACT TO ALCOHOL. Alcohol and older age don't mix well for a number of reasons, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports.

According to the NIA, our bodies become more sensitive to alcohol as we get older. When we drink alcohol, it is distributed in water. And water content in body tissues decreases with aging. That means more alcohol is concentrated in the bloodstream. As a result, blood alcohol levels in seniors can be 30 percent to 40 percent higher than in younger people who drink the same amount of alcohol.

And there are other concerns. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to liver problems, cancer and other diseases. It can also worsen existing health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Also, combining alcohol with prescription medicines can create dangerous interactions.

SIGNS THAT SIGNAL ABUSE. Alcohol abuse in seniors is often overlooked. Some signs, such as falls or confusion, are mistaken for “part of growing old.” Or symptoms may be blamed on medications when actually the alcohol is at fault.

Overuse of alcohol is one obvious reason for concern. Other signs of a drinking problem can include:

  • Trying unsuccessfully to cut back or stop drinking.
  • Lying about or trying to hide alcohol use.
  • Becoming irritable when not drinking.
  • Fighting with others about alcohol.

WHAT YOU CAN DO. Help find treatment options for the person who is abusing alcohol. He or she may benefit from medicines, counseling or both. Some people find it helpful to join a group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Most phone books have a listing for AA.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for someone who has a drinking problem is to offer support. Talk to the person about your concerns. Enlist the help of others, if you can. The American Academy of Family Physicians says family members can play an especially important role.

For more suggestions on helping someone with a drinking problem, call the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence toll-free at 1-800-622-2255.

Source: Health Net of California, a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc, and Healthwise, Incorporated, P.O. Box 1989, Boise, ID 83701. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. WebMD®.