Older Adults and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse in older adults is not always easy to see. Health care workers,
family, and friends often do not notice the signs since they look like the changes
that come with aging. For instance, the risk of falling goes up with both age and
alcohol abuse. When an older person falls and bruises, it is often seen as an issue
of aging. It may be harder to link the fall to alcohol abuse.
Many older adults view alcohol abuse as something shameful. They do not see it
as a disease and do not see a need to seek help. Yet research has shown that older
adults with drinking problems have one of the highest rates of success in treatment.
Did you know…
ξ Stressors such as loss of a job, death of a loved one, or changes in health
may put you at risk for alcohol abuse.
ξ Alcohol can have a stronger effect on you as you get older. This is due to
changes in your body as you age. Be aware that drinking the same amount
as you did in younger years may have greater effects.
ξ Alcohol affects balance and reaction time. This increases your chances of
ξ You should not mix alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
Talk with your health care team about your alcohol use. They can warn you
about the problems of mixing alcohol and medicines.
ξ For older adults, one drink a day is thought of as “moderate” alcohol use. If
you are over 65 years old, you should not drink more than one drink per day.
Are you concerned about your drinking?
Do you drink to calm your nerves or
forget your worries?
Do you lie about how much you drink?
Does drinking cause you to hurt
yourself or others?
Do you drink alone?
Do you plan your day based on where
and when you can get a drink?
When you drink do you find yourself
feeling angry, bitter or annoyed?
*If you answered yes to any of these
questions, you should seek help.
ξ Admit that you have a problem with drinking.
ξ Tell someone who can help. This could be a family member, friend, your
pastor or priest, or a doctor.
ξ If you feel you are in urgent danger because of your drinking, go to your
ξ Contact free self-help programs.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a support group for people who have
alcohol abuse problems. You can call in Madison at 608-222-8989 or look
on the internet at www.aa.org.
Al-Anon is for family members of people with alcohol problems. Call them
What is one drink?
1.5 ounces of
distilled spirits (80 proof)
5.5 ounces of wine
12 ounces of
More services can be found in the yellow pages of the phone book under
ξ Find other activities to replace drinking. Care for a pet. Read. Take up a
new hobby. Talk with friends. Volunteer.
ξ Work to prevent future alcohol abuse by choosing to go to places where
alcohol is not a temptation.
ξ Take care of yourself. Exercise. Eat healthy.
Alcoholism and the elderly. (n.d.) Retrieved September 24, 2001 from
National Institute on Aging. (n.d.) Aging and alcohol abuse. Retrieved September 27, 2001 from
Rigler, S.K. (2000). Alcoholism in the elderly. American Family Physician, 61 (6),
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please
use it and call if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your
care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for
diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are
different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this
information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©9/2015. University of
Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of