About 10 to 15 percent of people don’t start drinking alcohol heavily until they are older in age. To understand alcohol issues in seniors, it’s important to examine what an alcohol addiction is and the warning signs. This article from Aging.com gives an overview.
Alcohol is a major part of the culture of the United States. In 2014, alcohol sales—which include beer, wine, liquor, and other alcoholic beverages—totaled nearly $225 billion. The following year, more than 15 million Americans over the age of 18 reported having Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), known more commonly as alcoholism. That number reaches even higher among people who haven’t reported the disease or have yet to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
10-15% Of People Don’t Start to Drink Heavily Until They are Older in Age
A number of people in that group are seniors. About 10 to 15 percent of people don’t start to drink heavily until they are older in age, according to UCLA professor Dr. Alison Moore. Because of this, alcohol-related emergency room discharges among the elderly reached nearly a three-quarters of a million in 2012. This number—as well as the number of alcoholics who are also seniors—is expected to rise as the senior population reaches grows to 80 million by the year 2050.
To first understand the severity of alcohol addiction among the elderly, though, we must first understand what an alcohol addiction is and can look like.
What Is An Addiction?
Addiction is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.” It is an illness, just like cancer and heart disease are, and not something people prolong to do as a “choice.” Those who suffer from addiction often continue to participate in whatever substance they’re addicted to when they know it is detrimental to their health and life, and when they’re aware of treatment options. It is nearly impossible for them to stop on their own and without help.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse noted a number of reasons why people start drinking or using drugs:
- For pleasure (it makes them feel good)
- Because of peer pressure
- Out of curiosity of what drugs or alcohol makes you feel like
- To stay attentive while working, studying, or being around other people
- To make them feel better or less stressed
50% Have Alcohol Related Problems
Even When Seniors Live Inside Nursing Homes & Assisted Living, the NCADD says that nearly 50% Have “Alcohol-Related Problems.”
Alcohol-related emergency room discharges among the elderly reached nearly a three-quarters of a million in 2012.
Once users start to consume more drugs and/or alcohol, they build up a tolerance to the substance, and it takes more and more to reach the desired effect. This amount varies per person.
In 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said there were approximately 21.5 million people aged 12 or older in the United States addicted to either alcohol or drugs. Nearly three million of those suffer from addictions to both of those substances.