alcohol addiction in elderly

Is My Grandparent Addicted to Alcohol?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Anyone at any age can be addicted to alcohol. Unfortunately, one too many times, alcohol addiction among the elderly is often justified with the “they have lived long and earned the right” statements. Contrary to popular culture, not everyone drinks more in their younger days, with 10-15% of people turning into heavy drinkers in their older age. The elderly population continues to grow and with it alcohol abuse among the elderly. With a projection of more than 80 million seniors by 2050, the conversation around aging and alcohol addiction is necessary.

Accepting Powerlessness in Addiction

Like other addictions, alcohol abuse starts as a fun activity. Whether you started at a young age or later in your life, the first dose of dopamine is enough to make your body crave more. However, over time, your body builds resistance, and consequently, you need more alcohol to get high. This dependency develops an addiction, and before you know it, you are powerless and have no control over your cravings.

This state of powerlessness is frightening, scary, and often, lonely. Losing control over your body is similar to being in prison. However, the danger lies not in the powerlessness but the denial. The truth is that in a state of denial, you cannot find true healing. Recovery comes from your acceptance of powerlessness. However, what does acceptance mean?

Accepting that you are powerless does not mean that you are inherently defective, cannot think for yourself or that you cannot recover. Instead, it is admittance to the presence of a disease. Alcoholism is a disease, and understanding this concept is the first step towards recovery. You need help to manage your condition instead of trying to fix your problem.

Alcohol Addiction Prevalence Among the Elderly

Alcohol addiction is not restricted to any age and comes in all forms. The perception around elderly drinking being an aging phase contributes to the slow action against alcohol abuse among the aged. Unfortunately, excessive drinking is just as dangerous in old age as it is at any other point.

According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 11% of elderly patient hospital admissions are drug and alcohol abuse-related. 20% of elders admitted to psychiatric institutions also struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Due to limited knowledge, research, and conversations around alcohol abuse among the elderly, many continue to suffer in silence.

Increased Alcohol Sensitivity in the Elderly

The vitality of youth gives us several passes, often making us forget that we all grow old eventually. As you age, your body’s tolerance for alcohol decreases, making you prone to more alcohol-related accidents compared to your younger friends or grandchildren.

As you age, your body loses muscle and replaces it with fat, which makes it harder for your body to absorb alcohol. Your body also takes longer to digest alcohol and is more dehydrated. These factors mean that even without increasing your alcohol content, it is easier for you to achieve your high. You may experience more accidents and break bones more quickly, especially if you are suffering from age-related diseases such as osteoporosis.

The stigma around alcohol addiction certainly makes it harder to admit that you are struggling with alcohol addiction. In your old age, receiving judgment for having several glasses of wine or too much beer is probably the last thing on your mind. However, by admitting that you are struggling, you are already exercising control over your life.

What to Do?

Overcoming alcohol addiction in your old age as a grandfather or grandmother is hard, but not impossible. With the right help from First Steps Recovery, you can start your journey towards recovery. Contact us today for professional assistance.

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