When we hear the term binge drinkers, we don’t generally think about senior citizens as part of that group. But, researchers tell us that binge drinking among baby boomers is more common than we think. In fact, about 10.6 percent of people over 65 years of age are regular binge drinkers. So, what causes the high number of baby boomers and binge drinking today?
To answer that question, we first need to know who baby boomers are. They are a group of people who were born between 1946 and 1964. About 76.4 million senior citizens make up this group.
Next, we need to understand what constitutes binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above.” This BAC level typically occurs when men consume five or more drinks and women consume about four or more drinks in approximately two hours.
Why Baby Boomers and Binge Drinking is a Bad Combination
Binge drinking is dangerous for anyone no matter their age. But, for baby boomers, the risk of severe consequences from alcohol is much higher. The primary reason for concern comes from the way alcohol interacts with prescription medicines.
Binge drinking is risky for older adults for several reasons such as:
- Alcohol can exacerbate conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. These effects happen because alcohol interferes with the way the medications work in the body. People who use aspirin or blood thinners are at risk of internal bleeding when these pills are combined with alcohol.
- Older people who take prescription opioids for pain management and also drink alcohol are at risk for injuries from falls or other accidents.
- Individuals with COPD will suffer increased difficulty breathing.
- Alcohol can cause sleep disturbances. Many individuals who struggle with this side effect often take prescription or OTC sleep aids. So, another medicine is added to their long list of reasons not to drink alcohol.
- Senior citizens often struggle with lost appetite. If they are heavy drinkers they may skip meals or eat junk food thereby worsening their nutrition further. Healthy diets are a must for people of the older generation. Nutrition is their best defense against blood pressure and blood sugar issues.
Reasons Why More Baby Boomers Drink Alcohol Today
One of the reasons for increased alcohol use among senior citizens has to do with gender. For instance, women generally live longer than men. After their spouse dies, these women spend many years living alone. They struggle with loneliness, depression, grief, and anxiety. As a result, they may choose to self-medicate with alcohol.
Also, women of any age are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and are prone to severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, women find it harder to quit their alcohol consumption. According to NIAAA, more than 3 drinks in a day by women are considered binge drinking. So, women who consume more than that are at risk for seizures during withdrawal. This happens because of age-related brain chemistry imbalances that are exacerbated by alcohol consumption.
Alcohol Abuse by Senior Citizens Often Unrecognized or Overlooked
Physicians often fail to screen older adults about their drinking behavior. And, the patient certainly won’t voluntarily expose their binge drinking. As a result, it goes undetected until dangerous side effects appear. To help detect problem drinking behaviors, doctors should ask older patients the following 5 questions:
- Do you drink alcohol?
- How often do you drink?
- What do you drink?
- How much do you drink in one evening?
- Do you drink 3 or more drinks at a time?
Family members often fail to recognize drinking problems in their older parents for several reasons. First, they may attribute their loved one’s forgetfulness or tiredness to the side effects of prescription medications.
Also, family members fail to notice the signs of drinking because of a lack of personal interaction. For instance, young adults are busy with their own families, careers, and social life. So, they don’t spend enough time with their aging parents to notice anything unusual going on.
Other Adverse Effects of Alcohol on Older Adults
As mentioned above, alcohol can exacerbate conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes, and heart trouble. But, the effects don’t stop there. For older adults, alcohol can cause a range of health problems that are often attributed to other causes. For instance:
- Dehydration. As people age, their sense of thirst declines, body mass changes, renal function declines, and the balance of sodium and water in the body changes. Also, some medications such as diuretics can rob the body of much-needed fluids. Alcohol combined with these issues can cause severe dehydration.
- Health problems. Binge drinking can complicate other health issues such as liver problems, mood disorders, osteoporosis, and memory problems. The health implications involved in baby boomers and binge drinking are far worse than most people realize.
- Interactions with medications. About one in five older adults who drink also take medications that can have adverse interactions with alcohol. It’s very concerning that any of these individuals may be taking two or more prescription drugs and OTC products along with their alcohol use.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment for Baby Boomers
Older adults can overcome their alcohol abuse problems with professional treatment at Design for Change Recovery. Our program is designed to address any physical or mental issues to ensure the best treatment approach for their unique situation.
If you are struggling with the combined effects of medications, alcohol, and health issues, don’t hesitate to contact us today. At our Lancaster, CA facility, we consider each patient to be a unique individual who deserves respect and compassion during this sensitive time in their lives. Our goal is to provide the best level of treatment to ensure that you reach your recovery goals.