Alcohol And Its Complications In The Elderly

Health-care costs for a family with an alcoholic member are typically twice those for other families, and up to half of all emergency-room admissions are alcohol-related. Alcohol abuse contributes to the high health-care costs of elderly beneficiaries of government-supported health programs. In general, the medical complications of alcohol abuse observed in older individuals are the same as those found in younger alcoholics. They include alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic inflammation of the pancreas, gastrointestinal (affecting the stomach and intestines) bleeding and other GI-tract diseases, an increased risk of infections, and disturbances in metabolism. The elderly tolerate GI bleeding and infection less well than do younger persons. They are particularly prone to vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition (that is to getting too few calories overall and consuming too little protein on a daily basis), anemia, loss of bone mass (lighter, weaker bones are more apt to break), diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems, heart conditions, and cancer. Finally, alcohol-induced degeneration of the brain and the rest of the nervous system will add to the effects of the normal loss of nerve cells that occurs with age.

A number of studies have shown that alcohol in moderate amounts is actually a good medicine for the elderly (even the Prohibition Amendment permitted the sale of alcohol for medicinal purposes) and that it improves social interaction, mental alertness, and several signs of physical health. Alcohol is primarily a drug which depresses or deadens the central nervous system (CNS). Paradoxically, in moderate amounts it may seem to act as a stimulant with mood-elevating effects that account for its popularity. What it is actually doing in these cases is to depress or deaden inhibitions. The lack of inhibitions contributes to feelings of relaxation, confidence, and euphoria. However, alcohol abuse can result in serious damage to the brain and to the rest of the nervous system. It can cause brain tissue to shrink or waste away, unsteadiness and lack of coordination in movement, and damage to nerves throughout the body. Large doses of alcohol cause inflammation of the stomach, pancreas, and intestine that can hurt the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. The adult population appears less knowledgeable about the many adverse effects of alcohol on health than about the effects of smoking. For example, although many people recognize that heavy alcohol drinking often leads to cirrhosis of the liver, only about one-third are aware of the association between alcohol use and cancers of the mouth and throat. Alcohol use can lessen the effectiveness of routine drug therapy or can create new medical problems requiring additional therapy. Excessive alcohol use together with medications in the elderly can severely compromise and complicate a well-planned therapeutic program. Thus, even casual use of alcohol may be a problem for the elderly, particularly if they are taking medications that interact badly with alcohol. Difficulties can also arise from the interaction of alcohol and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The combination of alcohol and prescribed or OTC sleeping pills, for example, could decrease intellectual function by producing an organic brain syndrome; frequent results include confusion, falls, wild swings in emotions, and other adverse drug reactions (Adams,1995).

Alcohol No More

Alcohol No More

Do you love a drink from time to time? A lot of us do, often when socializing with acquaintances and loved ones. Drinking may be beneficial or harmful, depending upon your age and health status, and, naturally, how much you drink.

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