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Elderly Alcohol Abuse


Alcohol abuse among the elderly is on the rise. Have you ever seen that random 73 year old man at the bar hitting on the Hooters candidate? Well most likely he is drunk or just enjoying the effects of the Viagra he just took.

While working in the restaurant and night club industry I saw a ton of elderly men and women abuse alcohol. Some even drank more than their college aged grandchildren. While I tended bar some nights I would notice that the elderly would get intoxicated a lot quicker than most. The reason being is that most elderly individuals are prescribed medications that are not supposed to be mixed with alcohol.

Many have concluded that alcoholism is on the rise amongst the elderly population.  Some individuals whom never struggled with alcoholism earlier in life find that as they reach their senior years they turn to alcohol to alleviate the pain of loneliness, losing friends and spouses, and declining health.  Some researchers estimate that 10-15% of elderly hospitalizations are induced by alcohol abuse and/or drug abuse (Urell, 2012).  It is difficult to pin down the rates of alcoholism, problem drinking, and risky drinking among the elderly for several reasons.  Elderly individuals suffering from chemical dependence are often in denial and the signs of alcoholism may mirror the process of advanced aging.  That being said, in retirement communities one study estimates risky drinking rates to be between 3% and 25% and problem drinking to be between 2.2% and 9.6%.  While households report far lower rates of alcohol-related problems, it is as a result partially due to the support of a family therefore, decreasing the rate and the denial of the elderly individual or the elderly individuals’ family (Ross, 2012).

Most addicts say that their addictions hit an all time high when they were depressed or felt shame and guilt. As we get older and older we lose a lot of the people that are close to us. Many elderly people in their 70′s and 80′s have lost everyone-friends, family, parents, children and spouses. Their depression can severely elevate, making alcohol and prescriptions drugs are their escape.

This is very scary as the baby boomer generation is heading for retirement. It will not come as a shock when we see more and more senior citizens check themselves into treatment. While I was in rehab there was a staggering amount of elderly people seeking help. It is true when they say you are never too young or too old to get help.

Many elderly live quiet lonely lives and many live alone. That is a huge reason we have not heard a lot about elderly alcohol and drug abuse. We just don’t see it, as they hide it from everyone. Drinking has been a part of many of their lives for years.

Alcohol was glamorized even more in past eras than it is today. Emotions were rarely expressed, and alcohol helped alleviate the pain of silent suffering.  An image comes to mind, that of Humphrey Bogart drinking bourbon whiskey in the movie Casablanca.

It is scary to think about, being 23. Growing up, I used alcohol to cover up and hide my true self from almost everyone. I am gay and used alcohol to mask and cover up my true feelings. We have grown so much as a society with acceptance and still a lot of LGBT people use substances to escape. Imagine LGBT people back when the elderly were growing up.

It would be a great research idea to see how LGBT persons fifty years ago escaped from their society. It is really scary to think about the reasons young people use today. Elderly persons growing up usually had the same problems if not more.

We need to start looking more into elderly alcohol and drug abuse, as it is a growing epidemic. I mean it’d be good for everyone, because as the elderly can’t drive sober, just imagine them intoxicated!



Ross, S. (2012). Alcohol Disorders and the Elderly. Retrieved April 11, 2012, from Psychiatric Weekly:

Urell, B. (2012). Addiction Recovery Basics. Retrieved April 11, 2012, from Alcohol Abuse and the Elderly: The Hidden Population:


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Filed under: Addiction, Featured · Tags: Drug and Alcohol abuse, drug and alcohol treatment for Senior Citizens, elderly intoxication, Elderly substance abuse, rehabs, Senior Citizens is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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