Alcohol and Senior Citizens

elderly couple in front of house uid 1187314People are living longer and are generally healthier. This means that seniors are making up a larger portion of our population. Although alcohol use typically declines with age, some seniors may be at risk for alcohol-related problems.

What Makes Alcohol an Issue for Seniors?

Alcohol has a greater effect on seniors because metabolism changes as we age. Older people are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, and a little will go a long way. Seniors generally take more medications than other adults. Mixing alcohol with either prescription or over-the-counter drugs is unwise and can be dangerous. The development of age-related health problems can cause anxiety and drinking may help some people feel more relaxed. At the same time, chronic conditions such as heart disease or decreased mobility can be aggravated by alcohol use.

Loss of a spouse, friends, home, or career often occurs in later years. Alcohol may be used to deal with these and other emotional stresses. Retirement brings long stretches of leisure time and may result in feelings of loneliness and depression. Alcohol may assume a role in helping pass the time.

Alcohol problems among older persons are often mistaken for physical, social or emotional conditions associated with aging. The abuse or misuse of alcohol may go undetected or may be treated inappropriately.

For some seniors, lack of day-to-day contact with fellow workers, families, and neighbors can make it difficult for others to detect an alcohol problem if one exists.

Older people who have lived through many life experiences often pride themselves on being able to handle their problems without the help of outsiders. They may be unwilling to admit to a drinking problem or uncomfortable seeking help.

In general, alcohol problems among older people can be divided into three categories. Some seniors have used alcohol excessively throughout most of their lives. Others drink at low levels but are inadvertently mixing alcohol with other drugs in ways that are harmful. And some people begin to use alcohol for the first time in their later years.

Throughout our lives it makes sense to spend our time wisely and enjoy the best health possible. Seniors can choose healthier alternatives to alcohol use – exercise, a second career, hobbies, or professional counseling to help deal with grief and loneliness.

Getting to know your doctor and pharmacist is also a good idea. These health professionals will have answers about alcohol and other drug use. Young or old, it is important to ask for help when needed. Information and treatment services are available in your area.

The Genetics of Alcoholism

Is Alcoholism due to Nature or Nurture

Why can some people have a glass of wine or beer with their meal without feeling compelled to drink more, whereas others can’t seem to stop drinking? Can some people “hold” their liquor better than others? Does alcoholism tend to run in families? Does genetics hold the key to developing medications to treat alcoholism and its effects on the body? Researchers have been trying to find answers to questions such as these for several decades, seeking to identify the factors that influence a person’s risk of becoming alcohol dependent.

Research, to date, indicates that both your genetic makeup (i.e., the information stored in the DNA that you inherited from your parents) and your environment (i.e., how you live) influence your risk for alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Your genes certainly play an important role, influencing how your body responds to alcohol, how sensitive you are to its effects, and how likely you are to have a problem with alcohol. However, environmental factors—such as being surrounded by people who are heavy drinkers and who encourage you to drink—also can raise your risk for drinking too much.

The next question then becomes just how much of this risk is determined by our genes—that is, how much can be attributed to factors beyond our control. By studying large families with alcoholic and non-alcoholic members, comparing identical and fraternal twins, and studying adopted children and their biological and adoptive families, researchers found that about half of our risk for alcoholism is influenced by genetics. The remaining risk is related to the influence of environment—where and how we live. The two factors also work together in complex ways.


Unlike for some other diseases, there is no single gene that determines whether you will develop a problem with alcohol; instead, many genes influence your risk for developing alcoholism, each of which only has a small impact.

Understanding how genetics influences alcoholism also is important for another reason. Knowing the genes involved in this disease could help researchers and clinicians identify those who are most at risk of becoming alcoholic and understand how alcohol affects the body. These individuals then could be targeted more effectively for prevention and treatment efforts.

This Alcohol Alert describes how research is helping to identify the genes involved in alcoholism. In examining this research, one thing becomes clear: Unlike for some other diseases, there is no single gene that determines whether you will develop a problem with alcohol; instead, many genes influence your risk for developing alcoholism, each of which only has a small impact. Further, environmental influences may override or blunt the effects of the genes that increase risk. This overview describes how researchers are trying to tease apart which of the thousands of genes and millions of gene variants that make up your DNA play a role in alcoholism, how some of these genes act, and how these genes interact with your environment to determine how you and your body respond to alcohol.

Genes v’s Environment

As described above, researchers are learning more and more about how your genetic makeup can influence your drinking behavior and its consequences and which genes may put you at increased risk of alcoholism. But does this mean that if you inherit a certain combination of genes from your parents, you are destined to become an alcoholic? The answer to this is a clear “no” because how you live also plays an important role. People with the same genetic makeup may be more or less likely to develop alcoholism depending on their environment and life circumstances.

Researchers can study the interactions between genes and the environment and the relative impact of each through a variety of direct and indirect approaches.38 These approaches have helped identify several environmental factors that either protect us from or place us at increased risk for alcoholism; for example, marital status and religiosity have been found to be protective factors, lessening the impact of genetic risk factors on drinking in women. For adolescents in particular, drinking seems to be influenced strongly by environmental factors in addition to genetic makeup. Adolescents who carry high-risk genes and whose parents do not monitor their activities and/or who have friends that use alcohol and other drugs are more likely to develop alcohol problems than those with a similar genetic makeup whose behavior is monitored more closely. Modifying the environment also can help adolescents avoid risky drinking behavior. Participants in one prevention program designed for youth were less likely to engage in high-risk behavior, such as drinking, even though they had a high-risk genetic background.

The bottom line is that genes alone do not determine our destiny—lifestyle choices and other environmental factors have a substantial impact. In addition, many other individual and psychosocial variables influence when and how much we drink, both in the short and long term, and how this influences our risk of alcoholism.

Full story at; http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA84/AA84.htm

Parents and children both affected by substance misuse

Children and teenagers recognised too as perpetrators

A new report has identified parents as sufferers of abuse and violence from substance misusing children. The report by Adfam and Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) explores and documents Child to Parent Violence (CPV) and consulted with 88 parents seeking support from services.

Key findings from the research found:
  • Children as young as 11 and as old as 40 are physically, emotionally and/or mentally abusing their parents
  • There is a significant correlation between substance misuse and perpetrating domestic violence
  • 88% of victims of abuse were female and 12% were male
  • That abuses range from lower grade emotional manipulation to at the extreme end deaths.
  • Metropolitan Police Service records show that in 2009, 6 out of 7 non-partner/ex partner victims were mothers or fathers killed by sons – with substance misuse or mental health problems considered a key factor

The report makes recommendation including calls for better understanding of CPV, how to respond to requests for help and referral mechanisms are needed for front-line workers (such as police, social workers and GPs. It argues family support services are a cost effective resource, providing essential support to parents at a fraction of the cost that other health and social care services.

Children’s Commissioner re-iterates calls for protection of children

A new report from the Children’s Commissioner urges the Government to give as much attention to alcohol abuse among parents as to other drug misuse, and to train the relevant authorities to spot the signs of problem drinking in families earlier. See BBC report.

The Children’s Commissioner exists to promote the best interests of children and young people in England. It’s report suggest more than a fifth of all children in the UK, approximately 2.5 million, are living with a hazardous drinker (risky) drinker. The research also suggests 26,000 babies in England are living with a parent who is a dependent drinker, which is equivalent to 31,000 across the UK.

Synthetic Drugs Outlawed

Obama Signs Legislation Banning Synthetic Drugs

President Obama on Monday signed legislation that bans synthetic drugs. The law also expedites the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of new drugs and medical devices.

The law bans harmful chemicals in synthetic drugs such as those used to make synthetic marijuana and “bath salts,” according to the Star Tribune. While more than 30 states have banned various compounds in synthetic drugs, new ones are continually being created, the newspaper notes.

“In Minnesota and across the country, we are seeing more and more tragedies where synthetic drugs are taking lives and tearing apart families,” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said in a statement. “Today’s action means that this critical legislation to give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on synthetic drugs is finally the law of the land.” Senator Klobuchar co-sponsored bills banning synthetic drugs, which were included in an amendment to the FDA’s Safety and Innovation Act.

Synthetic drugs are readily available online. The law outlaws sales of synthetic drugs by both retail stores and online retailers.

In December, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released new information indicating that one in nine high school seniors had used “Spice” or “K2” over the past year, making synthetic marijuana the second most frequently used illicit drug, after marijuana, among high school seniors. Poison control centers operating across the nation have also reported sharp increases in the number of calls relating to synthetic drugs.

By Join Together Staff

Genetics and Family Environment Influence Drug Abuse

Risk for Drug Abuse in Adopted Children Appears Influenced by Family, Genetics

In a national Swedish adoption study, the risk for drug abuse appears to be increased among adopted children whose biological parents had a history of drug abuse, according to a report published online by Archives of General Psychiatry.

Drug abuse is a worldwide public health problem and much effort has gone into understanding the nature of familial factors, the authors write in their study background.

Kenneth S. Kendler, and colleagues evaluated the association between genetic and environmental factors and the risk of drug abuse. Their study included 18,115 adopted children born in Sweden between 1950 and 1993, as well their biological and adoptive relatives. Researchers relied on national registries and health databases, as well as information about drug abuse from medical, legal or pharmacy records.

The adoptees, whose average age at last available information was 46.2 years, had a 4.5 percent prevalence of drug abuse compared with 2.9 percent in all of Sweden from the same birth years.

The authors suggest the risk for drug abuse among children given up for adoption by biological parents, of whom a least one had drug abuse, was 8.6 percent, which they note was "substantially and significantly elevated over that seen in children given up for adoption when neither biological parent had drug abuse (4.2 percent)."

"Risk for drug abuse in adopted children is increased by a history in biological parents and siblings not only of drug abuse but also of alcoholism, major psychiatric illness and criminal convictions," the authors note. "Risk for drug abuse in adopted children is increased by disruption in the adoptive parent-adopted child bond by death or divorce but also by a range of indices of a disturbed adoptive home environment and deviant peer influences such as parental alcoholism and sibling drug abuse, respectively."

Researchers also suggest a gene-environment interaction in the etiology (the study of the causes of a disease) of drug abuse.

"Adopted children at high genetic risk were more sensitive to the pathogenic effects of adverse family environments than those at low genetic risk. In other words, genetic effects on drug abuse were less potent in low-risk than high-risk environments," the authors conclude.

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Family History of Alcoholism May Affect Teens’ Decision-Making

Teenage girl A family history of alcoholism may affect teenagers’ decision-making, researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University have found. They discovered these adolescents have a weaker brain response during risky decision-making compared with teens without such a family history.

The researchers studied 31 teens ages 13 to 15. Of these, 18 had a family history of alcoholism. All of the teens’ brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, to examine responses during an activity that mimicked the TV show Wheel of Fortune. The game presented risky and safe probabilities of winning different sums of money.

In the teens with a family history of alcoholism, the researchers noted that two areas of the brain responded differently, UPIreports. These brain areas are important for executive functioning, which guide complex behavior through planning, decision-making and response control. This group of teens showed weaker brain responses during risky decision-making, compared with teens who did not have a family history of alcoholism.

The researchers conclude in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, “Atypical brain activity, in regions implicated in executive functioning could lead to reduced cognitive control, which may result in risky choices regarding alcohol use.”

From Join Together

Can You Be Addicted To People?

Can You Be Addicted To People? – EmpowHER.com.

With the recognition of alcoholism as an actual disease that can be passed down both culturally and genetically from one generation to the next, more and more outstanding work has been done to shed light on the numerous causal factors and impact of addiction on people, families, and communities. The sense of shame and hopelessness that people often feel is sometimes a stumbling block as they recognize their problems, but then go through denial and lose sight of how to begin the recovery process.

Full story at Can You Be Addicted To People? – EmpowHER.com.