Drinking tendencies tend to change as we age. The older we get, the more prone we are to serve a drink on a regular basis. However, people usually believe that drinking is only an issue if a person appears drunk.
Australia’s draft alcohol guidelines suggest healthy people to drink less than ten drinks per week and no more than four in a day. If these levels are crossed, it enhances the risk of alcohol-related conditions, such as cancer and injuries.
Alcohol and Many Drugs Don’t Mix
According to numerous surveys, between 2007 and 2016, there was a 17 percent increase in risky drinking among people aged 60 to 69 based in Australia. In 2016, 18.2 percent of 60 to 69-year-olds reportedly drank at high-risk levels. Among women, those between 50 to 59 years old are now more prone to drink at risky levels – 13 percent – than any other age group.
Older adults are more at risk because of alcohol’s engagements with medicines, medical conditions that can worsen because of alcohol, and age-related changes in the metabolism of alcohol.
Older people are more prone to be taking medications, and most of those drugs interact with alcohol. The study carried out on risky drinkers aged 58 to 87 discovered that 92 percent were taking medications that, when mixed with certain amounts of alcohol could lead to major adverse effects, including drugs for high blood pressure.
For 97 percent of the study participants, drinking alcohol decreased the efficiency of the medication, including Nexium, a drug usually prescribed for gastric reflux.
Heavy Drinking is a Health Issue
The study discovered that only 30 percent of older men and 20 percent of older women could remember their GP asking about alcohol use in the last 12 months, irrelevant of what drugs they were taking. Even fewer could recall their pharmacist asking about this.
Fortunately, almost all subjects were okay with the GP asking about their alcohol use, more so in relation to medication. Acknowledging the social context to other adults’ drinking and drug use, and comprehending the way they make sense of these behaviors is a crucial first step in preventing and reducing damage.
When it comes to community level, GPs and pharmacists are in a position to help older adults to reduce the risk of harm but may need more training to work on their skills and confidence in tapping this topic with patients.
For older adults having alcohol-related problems, Australia’s first older adult-targeted service, known as Older Wiser Lifestyles (OWL), has successfully identified and involved with over 140 people who did not realize their drinking could be putting their health at high risk.
The approach asks patients at GP clinics to complete a screening test and notifies the doctor if risks are detected. People can also take part in an OWL early intervention program, which includes brief counseling and harm-reduction advice.
Until now, the project has led to older people reducing their alcohol intake and having fewer issues with medicines that react to alcohol.