Article Review: Binge Drinking is a Problem for Older Adults, Too

24 09 2010

 Magazine: Duke Medicine Health News – November 2009 – Vol. 15, No. 11

Article Title:  “Binge Drinking Is a Problem for Older Adults, Too:  More than five drinks at a time can lead to accidents, falls, and negative interactions with medicines.”

Summary:

“Binge Drinking” connotes college parties therefore is not usually associated with senior citizens. The study surveyed over 10,000 adults, aged 50+.  It revealed that 22% of men and 9% of women age 50-64 report binge drinking with 14% of men and 3% of women aged older than 65 reported consuming five or more alcoholic beverages at a sitting during the previous month.  This is a serious problem within the aging population as although binge drinking potentially does not lead directly to the results of long-term alcohol abuse, alcohol interacting with prescription medications can lead to life threatening situations. Occasional binge drinking can become a habit leading to health issues associated with alcohol abuse. Getting help is paramount, but requires the individual to accept they have a problem. Friends and family interventions are useful, but medical professionals usually have the most authority.   

Four Main Points:

  1. Binge Drinking is defined as having 5+ alcoholic beverages at one time. The health threats caused by even occasional binge drinking by older adults cannot be ignored.
  2. Alcohol tolerance diminishes over time. Older adults do not metabolize alcohol as efficiently as their younger counterparts do so the alcohol remains in the system longer where interaction with medications is likely.
  3. Self-awareness is necessary. We live in a society where people in this age bracket grew up with the “normalcy” of drinking. Intervention requires support from medical and home sources.
  4. Suggestions to self moderate:
    1. Have a meal before drinking because less alcohol is consumed when full
    2. Set a limit of 1-2 drinks and STICK TO IT
    3. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water
    4. Limit the amount of alcohol in the house at any given time to limit temptation
    5. Only drink with friends/family and let them help with moderation. Choose your “drinking partners” wisely; if they have a problem, they are going to be no help to you.

 

Learn and Application to Clients and Self:

Although the article did not state this directly, it is important that the “intervention” group does not suffer from ignoring the same problem.  People who are used to “having a few drinks” when they get home to “unwind” will justify their drinks that way in order to avoid the stigma of alcohol related problems. Probably the best thing is to reflect a healthy lifestyle where alcohol is truly in moderation. Share with the client that “unwinding” with a few drinks is truly only temporary and that “unwinding” through stretching, taking a walk, or going to the gym leads to longer term happiness.

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