Adults 65 and older are not immune from the consequences of alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism. A government study indicated that more than 10 percent of adults 65 and older were binge drinkers or heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking is defined as 15 or more drinks a week for men and eight or more drinks a week for women. One drink is the equivalent of 1.5 oz. liquor, 12 oz. beer or 5 oz. wine. Because many older adults are retired and living alone, their heavy drinking often goes undetected.
Additional considerations: As we age, the blood's water content decreases, which means the same amount of alcohol will result in a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) compared to a younger drinker of the same gender and weight. There's less fluid to dissipate the alcohol in the bloodstream, thus a higher BAC. And when a person ages, their balance is compromised by alcohol more quickly as well.
Drug interactions are especially troubling. As an adult reaches retirement age, he or she is more prone to aches/pains, arthritis, heart conditions and more. Alcohol interacts adversely with more than 120 over-the-counter and prescription medications. For example, calcium channel blockers are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and alcohol inhibits the body's ability to absorb calcium. Drug interactions with some pain relievers can lead to liver and kidney damage or failure, in addition to fatal overdose.
Alcohol may be a factor in more fatalities among seniors than would show up in statistics. An older adult could fall at home as a result of being intoxicated and whack his head on the way to the floor. The clinical cause of death by the coroner's view: Brain hemorrhage. The real cause of death: The alcohol that caused the fall.