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Elderly Addiction Requires Experienced Clinicians
Among the senior population, a surprising problem with alcohol abuse is becoming increasingly concerning. Surveys conducted in health care settings are exposing an increase of alcoholism among those aged 65 and older, according to a report published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The NIAAA states that 6-11% of seniors being admitted to a hospital are exhibiting the signs of alcoholism.
Because seniors represent the largest percentage of the population to take medications, the known interactions between the prescription medications and alcohol are troubling. Alcohol can cause serious and harmful contraindications with medications for heart conditions, high blood pressure, blood anticoagulants, infection, and diabetes. In response to this trend among seniors, there are now specialized elderly addiction treatment centers that address this specific issue.
Dangers of Mixing Prescription Medications with Alcohol
It has been estimated that the interactions between alcohol and prescription medication may be a factor in 25% of all emergency room admissions, according to the data reported in the NIAAA 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The authors found that nearly 78% of seniors age 65 and older used alcohol along with their prescription medications.
According to Aaron White, a co-author of the study, there can be serious consequences from mixing alcohol and medications. White states, “Alcohol can increase blood pressure, which could be counterproductive if one is taking medications to control blood pressure. Mixing diuretic medications with alcohol, which is also a diuretic, could contribute to dehydration. Mixing alcohol and other sedatives, like sleeping pills or narcotic pain medications, can cause sleepiness, problems with coordination, and potentially suppress brain stem areas tasked with controlling vital reflexes like breathing, heart rate, and gagging to clear the airway. Alcohol increases insulin levels and lowers blood glucose, so combining alcohol with anti-diabetic agents that regulate glucose levels could cause an undesirable drop in blood sugar. And, over time, alcohol can contribute to insulin insensitively.”
Long-term alcohol consumption can cause enzymes to break down the prescription medications, potentially neutralizing the effectiveness of the medication.
Risks Related to Seniors and Alcohol Consumption
In addition to the problems of drug interactions, there are several adverse effects of alcohol on an elderly person, including:
- As we age, higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can occur, a higher sensitivity to the effects of alcohol when compared to a younger person who consumed the same amount. This puts seniors at higher risk for becoming intoxicated, which can lead to accidents and falls.
- Alcoholism may speed up the normal aging process or cause premature aging of the brain. The frontal lobes, specifically, are vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, with shrinkage of this brain region exhibited in elderly subjects.
- Because of decreased bone density in the elderly, alcohol-related falls, as a result of feeling unstable, are associated with hip fractures.
- Alcohol is a depressant. Often, a senior is mourning the loss of a spouse or a friend and already experiencing signs of depression. Alcohol can exacerbate those depressive symptoms.
How Elderly Addiction Treatment Centers Can Help
With the recent emergence of elderly-specific treatment programs, a supportive and compassionate elderly addiction treatment center can be a life-saver. These programs cater to the specific needs of the elderly patient, designed for comfort with individually paced care. Because all the patients in the program will be older, group therapy with peers can be much more effective versus a senior in a group with all younger patients.
At a senior-specific addiction treatment center, the recovery activities will be geared toward the physical needs and limitations of the elderly. Case management services can help them after they are discharged from the program, coordinating and linking continuing care—social resources, counseling, medical and mental health services—so they will continue successfully in recovery. Senior addiction programs can provide opportunities to make new friends that can help them avoid isolation by being part of a social network.
The Treatment Specialist Can Locate an Elderly Addiction Treatment Centers
The Treatment Specialist connects you to a treatment center who offers compassionate specialists that will provide a free assessment and talk to you about the specific needs for you or your loved one. For more information, please call The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.