Think Before You Drink

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St. Patrick’s Day is considered the second biggest drinking day of the year, after New Year’s Day. But all that hard partying can come with consequences, especially for seniors.

BY BRYCE DIXON

Drinking in excess can become
more dangerous for people as they age.

Older adults may have health problems or chronic diseases that make them more
vulnerable to the toxic effects of alcohol. They may take more medications than they used to. They may be more prone to falls and memory lapses. Alcohol can distort their senses, which may already be impaired.

Some have been drinking for many years and are already physically and mentally dependent on alcohol. Retirement, disability, pain, insomnia and the loss of a
spouse all can trigger late onset Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

AUD is a disease in which people have a strong need to drink, cannot control their drinking once they start, and over time need to drink greater and greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.” When they stop drinking, they can get nauseated, sweaty, shaky, and restless.
These withdrawal symptoms can cause them to start drinking again to feel better, even though doing so can lead to a plethora of physical and/or psychological problems. It’s a cycle that can be very tough to break.

Clues to a possible AUD include memory loss, depression, anxiety, poor appetite, unexplained bruises, falls, sleeping problems, and inattention to cleanliness or
appearance. Answering “yes” to at least one of the following questions is also a sign of a
possible drinking problem.

• Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
• Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
• Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
• Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a   hangover?
• Have you continued to drink despite negative consequences?

The National Institute of Health advises that if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, talk with a health care provider. Also seek help if you feel you are having drinking-related problems with your health, relationships, or work.

How Much Is Safe To Drink?
In general, to be at low risk for AUD, healthy men and women over age 65 should not drink more than three drinks a day or a total of seven drinks a week. Drinking more than these amounts puts people at risk of serious alcohol problems. However, people can still have problems within these limits. Depending on their health and how alcohol affects
them, older adults may need to drink less than these limits or not at all.

Source: National Health Institute – Senior Health nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse

 

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