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Its Never Too Late

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Its Never Too LateRemember the old song from the decades ago, "Life Begins at Eighty?" It appears that its true in more than one way. A recent UCLA study supported the opinions of many behavioral science experts that alcohol addiction can begin in people fifty years of age and older. To be specific, alcohol addiction can begin in people who never before had a difficulty. Why is this happening?

For one, aging brings depression for some of those people who are getting older. Job loss, death of spouses, adult children moving to distant parts of the nation and too much leisure time can contribute to depressed feelings for some older people. Depression often brings with it alcohol abuse.

While aging does not have to be accompanied by poor health, it is common for older people to be on a variety of prescription medications designed to treat conditions that vary from high cholesterol, blood pressure difficulties, arthritis, etc. Mixing these medications with alcohol consumption is often dangerous and carries with it real health hazards.

In addition, health problems and alcohol consumption make a dangerous mixture. This mixture exacerbates health problems to a degree that is dangerous and potentially fatal. Just one example is the fact that alcohol increased blood pressure problems that can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Senior citizens can make the mistake of believing that they are free from worries about addiction. In actuality, alcohol and drug dependence can begin at any age. There is no such thing as a "safe age" to drink or use drugs. Part of the problem is that older people often fail to recognize the fact that they have an alcohol problem. Symptoms such as dizziness, falling and breaking bones, memory problems and others are often caused by too much alcohol.

That brings with it the next concern about those who are aging. The "baby boom generation" is now reaching the ages of 55 to 60. Many of the people in that population were young during the sixties and seventies when drug use and political protest were mixed. Now, older but not wiser, many of these people continue to abuse drugs but falsely believe it is safe to do so. Many experts are predicting a sharp increase in hospital emergency room visits due to dangerous health problems caused by alcohol and drugs.

If older people fail to recognize the fact that they have a dependence problem, many medical doctors and other health professionals hold the equally mistaken belief that there is no treatment for the elderly alcoholic. In truth, Alcoholics Anonymous is now forming meetings exclusively for the elder. Also, there are many new and useful medication that reduce the cravings for having a drink. Detox treatment and educational programs are fully available for the elderly now struggling with alcoholism.

Are you among the population of aging people who is experiencing alcohol problems? Do you have a parent or grand parent who is showing signs of this disease?

Your experiences, comments, questions and concerns about this are strongly encouraged. The fact is that the health community is predicting an epidemic of alcohol addiction among the elderly that we are not prepared to handle. Lets have a discussion of how to handle a loved one you are worried about having an alcohol problem at an older age.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.