Alcoholism in the elderly.Am Fam Physician. 2000 Mar 15; 61(6):1710-6, 1883-4, 1887-8 passim.AF
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are common but underrecognized problems among older adults. One third of older alcoholic persons develop a problem with alcohol in later life, while the other two thirds grow older with the medical and psychosocial sequelae of early-onset alcoholism. The common definitions of alcohol abuse and dependence may not apply as readily to older persons who have retired or have few social contacts. Screening instruments can be used by family physicians to identify older patients who have problems related to alcohol. The effects of alcohol may be increased in elderly patients because of pharmacologic changes associated with aging. Interactions between alcohol and drugs, prescription and over-the-counter, may also be more serious in elderly persons. Physiologic changes related to aging can alter the presentation of medical complications of alcoholism. Management of alcohol withdrawal in elderly persons should be closely supervised by a health care professional. Alcohol treatment programs with an elder-specific focus may improve outcomes in some patients.