Binge drinking is a phenomenon most often seen among college students and younger adults. It is usually classified as having 5 or more drinks in a single setting for men, and 4 or more drinks for women. It is extremely dangerous as it increases the chances of alcohol poisoning and risky decision making, which can have a very wide array of consequences, including death.
Now a new study suggests that older women are increasingly participating in binge drinking behavior and are now at a greater risk of developing a dependence on alcohol and suffering from alcohol-related disorders.
Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at data collected between 1997 and 2014. They found that men consumed alcohol at much the same rate throughout these seven years. However, the amount of alcohol consumed by women increased roughly 4% each year. They also found that older women were more likely to increase their alcohol consumption.
This is especially troubling because of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol use among women. “We know that, overall, women are more sensitive to the negative health consequences of alcohol than men. These consequences include liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and cognitive impairment – serious problems – and addiction to alcohol is possible as well,” commented Dr. J.C. Garbutt, medical director of the University of North Carolina Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program.
While there isn’t a reason that has been given for this increased consumption by older women, it uncovers a hole in alcoholism prevention that shows additional populations that need to be reached. There should be no end to the help for substance abusers, from prevention and intervention to treatment and aftercare support. This study shows that we cannot assume that it is only younger people who have binge drinking problems.
Surprisingly, researchers have determined that teenagers are not the most a- risk group for developing drinking problems. In fact a study appearing in BMJ Openfound that older people who enjoy financial success are more likely to abuse alcohol than teenagers.
This is contrary to what most people think when it comes to at risk groups for alcohol misuse. Perhaps teenagers get the most attention because evidence has shown that too much alcohol at a young age can put children at risk for other, more severe addictions in the future. Throughout most children’s high school careers they are given lectures, information and warnings against consuming too much alcohol. While this type of attention and care is likely beneficial for young people, it seems that more focus needs to also be placed on older adults.
“Or findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ ageing process. Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people. Consequently, and based on our results, we recommend the explicit incorporation of alcohol drinking levels and patterns into the successful ageing paradigm,” explained Jose Iparraguirre, the lead author of the study.
While the focus remains on the children, many older people are slipping through the cracks. Researchers determined that middle-aged adults who are financially stable are more likely to frequently consume more than two drinks in a sitting, oftentimes at home. Additionally, meetings and social gatherings often include alcohol.
The healthcare community is especially affected by later in life alcohol abuse because of the costs associated with treating those suffering from problems associated with the behavior. Researchers warn that in order to curb the amount of older adults who consume too much alcohol, family members and primary care practitioners need to spot the warning signs that someone may be struggling with alcohol. Early intervention could be most important factor in preventing long term alcohol-related health risks.
One section of the population that is often overlooked when it comes to the prescription drug abuse epidemic is the group of older Americans. There are several contributing factors that have made them more susceptible to this, and it is often harder to detect among the elderly.
A recent article draws into light the concerns among healthcare professionals in North Dakota about prescription drug addiction among older people in the United States.
Although most of the focus on prescription drug abuse has been on teenagers and younger adults, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) states that the number of people 55 and older admitted to the emergency room due to nonmedical use of prescription drugs more than tripled between 2004 and 2011.
Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that close to 30 percent of people between ages 57 to 85 use at least five prescriptions. While some of these prescriptions may be life-saving medications, there are often drugs such as painkillers or anti-anxiety pills mixed in. There is also an increased risk of danger when multiple drugs are mixed together, as these drug interactions can create a new level of toxicity and a plethora of potential side effects.
Some signs to watch out for may include memory loss or confusion, which can be separated out from early forms of Alzheimer’s by a primary care physician conducting tests. Other signs include being overly concerned about the amount of medications, when they’re taken and whether or not they’re going to run out.
Due to the possibility of multiple health conditions and medications, not all treatment facilities are equipped to deal with older adults. The detoxification procedures can be more complex and take specialist doctors who are familiar with the situation.
If you know of someone who may need help with prescription drug abuse, contact us today for a free consultation.