Alcohol and the Over 65s

Alcohol Abuse Among the Elderly

Research shows that today’s population of over 65s in Britain drink more heavily than previous generations of seniors. Alcohol is more readily available, stronger, more promoted and more socially acceptable than it has ever been. It is also the most abused substance by retired people.

Many seniors find the sudden change of lifestyle that comes after retirement difficult to deal with and some use alcohol to cope. Many elderly people must also deal with bereavement, loneliness, boredom and frustration due to loss of mobility.

Types of elderly drinkers

Elderly drinkers tend to fall into two groups: those who have been heavy drinkers since youth and those who started abusing alcohol later in life.  

The difficulty in identifying a drinking problem is that older people tend to drink very little but very often. Official statistics on the consumption habits of the UK elderly indicate that they drink less units than younger generations, but are more likely to drink daily.

According to Public Health England, the NHS’ policy advice unit: “Alcohol is England’s second biggest cause of premature deaths behind tobacco.” 

The Elderly: More Physically Vulnerable to Alcohol

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to alcohol abuse. As people age, their metabolism changes and they process alcohol less efficiently than when they were young. Tolerance to alcohol becomes lower with age. Two glasses of wine for a 65 year old grandfather could be equivalent to a whole bottle of wine for a young man.

A senior citizen might not realise they are drinking too much because they drink the same amount as they have always done. They also might not realise that many drinks such as wine, have a higher alcohol content now than they did a generation ago.

Another problem is the difficulty of assessment. It can be easy for doctors to misdiagnose an elderly person who may appear to have illnesses that are associated with old age, such as insomnia, dementia, depression or has had a fall. Health professionals may miss the fact that alcohol could be the cause of these illnesses.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Many older people take various prescription pills for a wide variety of complaints, but their ability to quickly absorb these drugs is limited. Drinking alcohol on top of taking prescription drugs can be dangerous as alcohol can quadruple the effect of some drugs. A particularly dangerous mix is sedatives and alcohol.

Unrecognised Alcohol Problems

In the UK more elderly people are admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related problem than younger age groups.

“Perhaps up to 60% [of older people] who are admitted to hospital because of confusion, repeated falls at home, recurrent chest infections and heart failure, may have unrecognised alcohol problems. Some… are long-standing drinkers who have become old, others started drinking in old age… elderly widowers are the most vulnerable group.” The Royal College of Physicians.

Specialised Rehab Treatment for Elderly Alcoholics

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one, or if you are a senior citizen having problems controlling your alcohol or drug intake, get in touch with Castle Craig’s admissions team for advice on intervention and treatment optionsEarly recognition and treatment can help reset the damage addiction has on your body. If you think someone you love has a drinking problem, contact us to get help.

30 Years of Treating Addictions

Castle Craig Rehab has over 30 years of experience in treating alcoholism, drugs and gambling addiction. Our integrated residential rehab programme starts with a personalised detox process and medical care. In parallel, patients attend the therapy programme, which is made up of specialist and complementary addiction therapies.  

This includes individual therapy and group therapies that help each patient address their own personal history and psychological issues. Some of the specialist group therapies that our patients attend include PTSD therapy, Eating Disorders group therapy, Women’s group therapy, Grief-therapy, Cross-Addiction therapy.