Why are Older Adults, Particularly Women, Drinking More Alcohol?

Have you gone too far?

Alcohol affects older women more than older men. While fewer women drink as they age, particularly those born earlier in the 1900s, those from later generations that drink have been drinking for longer periods of time, probably because there was less stigma attached to it. If you don’t believe there is a problem with women drinking, the statistics prove otherwise: According to Robert Jimison of CNN, 47.5% of women age 60 and older drink alcohol.  This is an increase of 10% from 20 years ago, and it is quickly closing the gap between female and males.  The figure for men is 59.9%.  That is only 12.4% more than women.

According to an NIH publication, women are just as likely to be admitted to a hospital for alcohol-related problems as they are heart problems. Increasing numbers of women are being admitted for accidents, including falls with broken bones that occurred while they were drinking.  Why is this?  Older women, a group known to take more antidepressants for their mood disorders, risk more when they add alcohol to their routine. Mood disorders include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and others.

As seniors age, there are ever increasing problems with their using alcohol.  Older adults have less water in their bodies and this creates a higher concentration of alcohol. In other words, it does not take as much alcohol to get high as it once did and the higher concentration produces higher blood alcohol levels, more so in women.  In addition, alcohol is not metabolized as well in older people. These problems are magnified by using alcohol with many drug types, diseased states, and the fact that their bodies can no longer tolerate the amounts they used in the past.


Don't Go There!


Call for Help!Alcohol poisoning may occur and caregivers need to be aware of the symptoms:  Slowed heart rate and breathing, low body temperature, loss of consciousness, vomiting, poor reflexes, and confusion. A person may vomit after loss of consciousness.  If that occurs and the gag reflex has disappeared, the person will likely aspirate on the vomit and die. That is sufficient reason to call an ambulance if someone passes out.

Evidence that someone may be headed in that direction is being tired, not eating, not sleeping properly, slurred words, and confusion.


Why do seniors drink more alcohol?

Many seniors live alone and are not actively participating in any activities that would provide them with some self-expression.  Unfortunately, they stay at home and feel absolute loneliness, unwilling to make friends or to seek membership in organizations that would provide an outlet for socialization. Maintaining friendships has been shown by many to have one of the most positive effects on aging.  Watching the video below will provide more enlightenment about the causes of alcohol use and abuse in older adults.





What happens when they drink with certain medications?

Muscle relaxants

Side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, weakness, and problems with judgment or thinking can occur.


Pain Killers

Using alcohol with pain medicationsPills + Alcohol = Problem can cause severe problems.  Not only does alcohol adversely affect the liver, painkillers containing acetaminophen, such as hydrocodone, affect it as well.  The risk of liver damage increases substantially when using the two together. The brain, pancreas, and heart may be affected by excessive alcohol use.  Other problems that may occur as a result of using alcohol with painkillers include slow and shallow breathing, shortness of breath, tiredness,  clotting problems, constipation, high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeats, tolerance, death, breast cancer and mouth and throat cancer.



Alcohol and antidepressants do not work too well together either.  Drinking reduces the effects of antidepressants and may actually increase your anxiety or depression. Adding other medications to the mix, like pain or sleeping pills will almost surely make things worse.  This could create an overdose or exaggerated symptoms of many problems.

Combining alcohol with MAOIs, such as Marplan and Nardil,  prescribed for major depression, Parkinson’s, and other illnesses is especially dangerous and can cause serious spikes in blood pressure.

Alcohol taken with antidepressants can also cause drowsiness and sedation and affect your ability to think and react.  The following reactions may occur if you use alcohol with melatonin, a sleep aid: breathing problems, drowsiness, becoming dizzy and losing consciousness.


Other Medications  

Sleeping pills, cold and allergy drugs, acetaminophen, aspirin, and cough syrup also interact with alcohol, causing severe problems.


What about the impact of alcohol on certain diseases?

According to the National Institutes for Alcohol and Abuse, there are a number of diseases that are made worse by alcohol.

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Memory problems
  • Mood disorders


Diseases caused by too much alcohol.

  • Liver diseases
  • Pancreatitis
  • Increases the risk for certain cancers
  • Brain Damage
  • Intestinal problems
  • Affects the immune system which allows infectious diseases to occur

Are you willing to risk any of these?


Free Yourself With Knowledge

What can you do about it?

Get help.  Remember that you will respond to treatment in the same way a younger person would, so don’t discount treatment.  Talk to your doctor. He will guide you to an appropriate place.  If you cannot afford treatment, your doctor can also advise you of those agencies that have a sliding scale method of payment based on income.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that people ages 65 and older have only one drink per day.  Talk with your doctor about this and about using any of the above medications with alcohol.

Thank you for reading this important article.  I would like to know if you found this article on alcohol helpful or if you have any suggestions for others.  Please use the Comment Section below for your responses.