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.

ER Doctor Can Help Reduce Drinking

Doctor with stethoscope around her neck holding clipboard uid 1173327Seven Minutes of Counseling by ER Doctor Can Help Reduce Drinking

People who engage in hazardous and harmful drinking are more likely to reduce their consumption of alcohol for at least one year if they receive just seven minutes of counseling from an emergency room physician, a new study finds. Physician counseling can also reduce drinking and driving.

The study included 740 people considered hazardous and harmful drinkers, defined as men who had more than 14 drinks a week, or more than four drinks at a time, and women who had more than seven drinks a week, or more than three at a time. They were divided into three groups. One group received brief counseling aimed at limiting alcohol consumption, the second group received the counseling plus a follow-up phone call, and the third received standard care alone.

Health Day reports patients who received the counseling reduced their average number of drinks from almost 20 a week to 13 a week within six months. One year later, they drank slightly more than 14 drinks a week.

Participants who received the counseling reduced binge drinking episodes, from about seven per month to fewer than five, within six months. They engaged in slightly more than five episodes a month one year later. Among patients who received counseling, rates of driving after having more than three drinks dropped from 38 percent to 29 percent after one year.

Follow-up phone calls were found to have little benefit in reducing drinking.

“So many of the tragedies we see in the emergency department are due to problem drinking. Our study shows that brief counseling of patients can improve outcomes and have a life-saving impact,” lead researcher Gail D’Onofrio of the Yale University School of Medicine said in a news release.

The findings are published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Alcohol Costs Society $1.90 per Drink

Excessive Drinking Costs US $223.5 Billion

A new study finds that alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or about $1.90 per drink.

clip_image001Excessive alcohol consumption is known to kill about 79,000 people in the United States each year, but a new study released by the CDC and The Lewin Group shows that it also has a huge impact on our wallets as well.

The cost of alcohol consumption in the United States reached $223.5 billion in 2006 or about $1.90 per drink.

Almost three-quarters of these costs were due to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men, and is the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States.

The researchers found that the cost of excessive drinking was quite far-reaching, reflecting the effect this dangerous behavior has on many aspects of the drinker’s life and on the lives of those around them.

The costs largely resulted from losses in workplace productivity (72% of the total cost), health care expenses for problems caused by excessive drinking (11% of total), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses related to excessive alcohol consumption (9% of total), and motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving (6% of the total).

The study analyzed national data from multiple sources to estimate the costs due to clip_image002excessive drinking in 2006, the most recent year for which data were available. The study did not consider a number of other costs such as those because of pain and suffering among either the excessive drinker or others that were affected by their drinking, and thus may be an underestimate.

The researchers estimated that excessive drinking cost $746 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. in 2006.

From the Centre for Disease Control

Students Misuse of Drugs

Students drug useStudy Suggests Parents May Underestimate Teen Misuse of Stimulant Medications

“Parents’ awareness of their teens using ‘study drugs’ does not match self-reported use by teens,” according to a US nationally representative household survey of parents of 13- to 17-year-olds.

Only 1% of parents of teens who have never been prescribed a stimulant medication for ADHD believe that their teens have used such drugs to stay awake to study for an exam or to do homework, and 4% reported that they did not know.

In contrast, recent national data from the Monitoring the Future survey show that 5% of 8th graders, 9% of 10th graders, and 12% of 12th graders report ever using stimulants such as Ritalin® or Adderall® without a prescription (see figures below).

The study also found that only slightly more than one-fourth (27%) of parents of teens reported that they had talked to their teens about using non-prescribed stimulant medications (data not shown).

While Only 1% of Parents Believe Their Teens Have Used a Stimulant to Stay Awake to Study for An Exam or To Do Homework . . . (see below)

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. . . Between 5% and 12% of
8th, 10th, and 12th Grade Teens Say They Have Ever Used Stimulants Without a Prescription (see below)

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June 10, 2013. Vol. 22, Issue 23. CESAR FAX may be copied without permission at www.cesar.umd.edu

Older People at Greater Risk for Alcohol Impairment

Older People May Be at Greater Risk for Alcohol Impairment than Teens, According to Baylor Study

An acute dose of alcohol may cause greater impairment in coordination, learning and memory in the elderly than in young people, according to a study by Baylor University.

Researchers said the findings have profound significance for older people –a population that is aging worldwide at an unprecedented rate and that includes Baby Boomers as they become senior citizens.

“Health implications such as falls, accidents and poor medicine-taking are pretty easy to conclude,” said Douglas B. Matthews, Ph.D., senior author of the paper, published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. April is Alcohol Awareness Month.

In the United States, as many as 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women over age 65 engage in risky drinking behavior, with an estimated 1 to 3 percent of those afflicted with an alcohol use disorder, according to prior research. Because of improvements in medicine and public health, nutrition and education, people 65 and older will account for 20 percent of the U.S. population by the year 2030, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

While previous data have indicated that aged people show significantly greater impairments than younger adults when alcohol is consumed, understanding the neurobiology underlying that increased sensitivity in the aged has been hampered by the lack of an adequate animal model, said Matthews, a research scientist in psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and head of psychology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The Baylor research, the first of its kind, established a baseline of the acute effects of alcohol in aged populations, which can aid future research into neurobiology and in determining the effect of prolonged alcohol abuse.

The experiment included adult and aged rats (at least 18 months old), Matthews said. It showed a dramatic increase in ethanol-induced ataxia.

“We know a lot of neurobiological changes occur during aging which underlie age-related cognitive and behavioral deficits. It’s reasonable to suspect a significant interaction exists between age-related and alcohol-induced effects in the brain,” said Jim Diaz-Granados, Ph.D., a study co-author, chair of Baylor’s department of psychology and neuroscience, and chair of the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, a national organization.

“Our hope would be that further findings in this area will serve as a basis to educate the public regarding the risks and provide insights in the clinic,” Diaz-Granados said.

Findings were presented at the Research Society of Alcoholism conference in San Francisco. Also conducting research in the study was Adelle Novier, a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.

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

Treat, Don’t Blame Addicts

Why We Should Treat, Not Blame Addicts Struggling to Get ‘Clean’

Journalist David Sheff’s son Nic began using marijuana and alcohol at the age of 12, then heroine and crystal meth. Sheff was baffled; his son transformed from an intelligent student and athlete into an addict living on the streets. At first he thought Nic was just being a wild teenager who needed some tough love. But after struggling to find Nic treatment — and keep him alive — Sheff realized that his son was dealing with a serious disease, more similar than different from diabetes, hypertension or even cancer.

With his personal experience and more than 10 years of research, Sheff concluded that addiction is a health crisis with a price tag of US$600 billion in combined medical, economic, criminal and social costs every year.

In a follow-up to his memoir “Beautiful Boy,” David Sheff has written a new book, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy,” in order to outline a slew of reasons why society and addiction treatments have largely failed to help the 20 million Americans with addictions.

Sheff asserts that the reason that addiction treatments overwhelmingly fail is because of how we view addiction. And he says correcting common misconceptions about the disease can be the first step towards improving the social support and medical treatment systems for those struggling with their addictions.

Below are the top myths about addiction, according to David Sheff.  


Myth No. 1: Good kids don’t use drugs, bad kids do. 

Myth No. 2: It’s impossible to prevent drug use. Kids who are going to use are going to use.

Myth No. 3: People who get addicted are weak and without morals.

Myth No. 4: Addicts must hit bottom before they can be treated.

Myth No. 5: You don’t treat drug problems with drugs.

Myth No. 6: The only way for addicts to stop using is by going to AA meetings.

Myth No. 7: Marijuana is not addictive. No one’s ever died from marijuana. It’s not a gateway drug. Marijuana shouldn’t be legalized.

Myth No. 8: America’s drug problem is unsolvable.

  • We’ve failed at solving America’s drug problem not because it’s impossible to do so, but we’ve been focusing on the wrong things. The main problem is that we’ve treated drug use as a criminal problem and drug users as morally bankrupt.
  • There are several developments that make me optimistic that we can lower drug use, treat addicts and potentially solve many of the problems in America caused by addiction:
  • There’s a growing understanding and acceptance that addiction is a disease and must be treated like we treat other diseases.
  • There are advances in treatment that will dramatically improve the likelihood that addicts will get well. There are also new prevention strategies, early assessment, and brief intervention strategies that work.
  • There is progress toward making sure that people who need treatment will be able to find programs that use evidence-based treatment.
  • There is a new organization founded called Brian’s Wish To End Addiction

The top myths about addiction above were adapted from content from David Sheff’s new book, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. The views are his own.

Full story at; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/04/addiction-mythbusters-understand-what-triggers-addiction-and-how-to-manage-the-disease.html