According to a 2017 analysis, alcohol use has steadily increased in the population age 60 and above over the past 2 decades, particularly among women. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that approximately 20 percent of adults aged 60-64 and around 11 percent over age 65 report current binge drinking. Older adults can experience a variety of problems from drinking alcohol, especially those who:
• Take certain medications
• Have health problems
• Drink heavily
There are special considerations facing older adults who drink, including:
Increased Sensitivity to Alcohol
Aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol. Older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger. This puts older adults at higher risks for falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries that may result from drinking.
Increased Health Problems
Certain health problems are common in older adults. Heavy drinking can make these problems worse, including:
- High blood pressure
- Congestive heart failure
- Liver problems
- Memory problems
- Mood disorders
Bad Interactions with Medications
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbal remedies can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. Medications that can interact badly with alcohol include:
- Cold and allergy medicine
- Cough syrup
- Sleeping pills
- Pain medication
- Anxiety or depression medicine
Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption
According to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. There are some adults who should not drink alcohol, such as women who are pregnant.
If you have a health problem or take certain medications, you may need to drink less or not at all because of the reasons described above.