chicago rehab treatment alcohol addictionSeniors citizens and alcohol abuse and misuse is a serious problem. With the rapidly growing senior population, it is more important than ever to stay informed about the potential mental/behavioral health threats seniors are experiencing. People seldom think of alcohol abuse or misuse to be a problem in the senior population and rarely see that they are at risk of this behavior. There are major life changes affecting this population, which leads many seniors to begin abusing or misusing alcohol (and medications), even if they never showed signs of this behavior earlier in life.

Seniors experience many life changes, which can lead them to use alcohol or medications to help cope/manage these stressors. Changes include, but are not limited to:

  1. Failing health
  2. Boredom – loss of structure in life
  3. Stress
  4. Loneliness/isolation
  5. Depression – loss of friends/spouse due to death
  6. Relocation

As the body ages, your body changes the way it metabolizes alcohol and medications which leads to an increased sensitivity to alcohol’s effects. Family/Friends may think that their senior is suffering from dementia or some other aging disease, but rarely do they make the connection that their senior may be drinking during the day and the physical effects noticed are actually those from alcohol consumption or the mixture of medications and alcohol.

Alcohol and medication abuse/misuse in seniors may be difficult to notice or determine. Seniors are less likely to see the “standard” consequences of abusing alcohol or medications because of their lifestyle. They are usually retired, so rarely will there be work-related consequences. They typically drink at home, so are less likely to be caught driving under the influence.  They often have all day free and are alone, so drinking when no one is around is easy and common.

Some consequences a senior may experience while abusing alcohol or medications could be:

  1. adverse effects of medications
  2. rapid aging
  3. cuts/bruises from falling
  4. memory loss
  5. loss of appetite

As you can imagine, these consequences can easily be confused with typical aging symptoms. This is why it is important to stay in frequent contact, have family and friends available to seniors and keep them active. If you see an elder frequently, you will be more sensitive and alert to seeing major changes in an elder’s behaviors. It is important for seniors to have contact with someone daily – this will also help relieve any feelings of loneliness and isolation which can quickly lead to depression.

Medicare now covers up to 4 brief intervention counseling sessions (annually) to educate older adults about the effects of alcohol consumption and mixing medications. This outreach and education program may provide the crucial information that leads the senior to a healthier lifestyle or to realize they need more help and begin attending 12-Step meetings or go to a treatment center.

New Hope Recovery Center prides ourselves on providing personalized treatment plans for each client, because none of our clients are the same. Our clients appreciate our supportive environment and often tell us they were able to truly open up because of our great sense of community and our caring and friendly staff. If you are an aging adult, or know someone who is, that is struggling with alcohol abuse/misuse, give us a call and we will be happy to provide some support and education about what steps are needed to get back on the right path.  773-883-3916 or

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

Want to read more about seniors and substance abuse? Check out this related article:

Substance Abuse Linked to Untreated Mental Illness in Older Adults