You may not be whooping it up at the bar or falling down drunk at Sunday dinner, but as you age, you could be drinking too much alcohol without even knowing it.
Coping with unresolved grief, stress, boredom, anxiety, depression and loneliness can all lead older adults to drink more, says Cindy King, program manager of Urban Services, Addiction and Mental Health at Alberta Health Services.
Depending on your health and state of mind, a single drink can pack a lot more punch than when you were in your 20s or 30s. Our body’s ability to process alcohol changes as we age. We have a lower proportion of body water, slower metabolism and fewer enzymes, which can all increase the potency of alcohol.
The truth is, alcohol misuse can be harmful at any age. But when you’re 50 or older, alcohol can pose more serious problems because you’re more likely to take medications or have deteriorating health. “Alcohol interacts with more than 150 medications commonly prescribed for seniors,” King says.
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines strongly advise not drinking at all if using medications or other drugs that interact with alcohol. The guidelines also recommend not drinking at all when driving or using tools, working, caring for others and several other situations.
Detecting problem drinking (in yourself or others) is not always easy because the signs are similar to symptoms related to aging, such as an overall decline in health, social isolation (introversion), memory loss, sexual difficulties, depression, insomnia and falls.
That’s why you may want to ask yourself: how much do I drink—in a week or a day?
Ultimately, the more aware you are about how much you drink, the less likely it will become a problem.
If you are concerned about your own or another person’s drinking, call the 24-hour Addiction and Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-332-2322.