Alcohol Use Disorder On The Rise With Older Adults

alcohol use disorder

Opioid use disorder among older adults continues to be a great cause of concern in the United States. We recently covered new findings showing that while opioid misuse among young people has been declining, it’s been increasing among older Americans. The study dictates that greater emphasis needs to be placed on prevention and treatment efforts among this demographic. Although, opioids are not the only addictive substance impacting older adults. In fact, problematic alcohol use is on the rise, according to epidemiologists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Research published in JAMA Psychiatry, compared data from a national survey taken in 2001 and 2002 and again in 2012 and 2013, The New York Times reports. The data indicates that older adults engaging in “high-risk drinking” rose 65 percent, to 3.8 percent. What’s more, alcohol use disorders (AUD) more than doubled during the same time period among this demographic. With AUD affecting 3 percent of older Americans.


What is “High Risk Drinking”

Most experts define “binge drinking” as when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours. The practice has been associated with a number of negative health effects, including dependence and alcohol use disorder. High risk drinking, on the other hand, is when men have five or more standard alcoholic beverages, and when women have four or more in a day — at least once a week.

“The trajectory over time is remarkable,” said Dr. Marc Schuckit, a psychiatrist and addiction specialist at the University of California, San Diego. “You have to say there’s something going on.” 

The causes of the upward swing are varied. Bridget Grant, an epidemiologist at N.I.A.A.A. and study lead author, says that anxiety and the recession likely had a role, according to the article. Aside from heavier drinking leading to alcohol use disorder, the substance can exacerbate chronic health conditions associated with older adults, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Alcohol misuse has also been associated with several forms of cancer and is a known cause of stroke and heart attack. Many of the medications older Americans take daily, warn against mixing with alcohol. The possibility of deadly synergistic effects, is great.

“Read your drug labels,” said Dr. David Oslin, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction at the University of Pennsylvania. “Alcohol interferes or interacts with literally hundreds of prescription medications.”


Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Addiction isn’t a good thing under any circumstances. Fortunately, achieving long-term recovery is entirely possible. Dr. David Oslin says that older adults in addiction treatment have the same or better success rates as younger adults. Dr. Oslin conducted a study which found that older adults were much more likely to stick to treatment plans. Alcohol use disorder treatment works.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat we offer an Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program. One that is specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of seniors. Please contact us today to begin the lifesaving process of addiction recovery.