As you get older, your bodies change and break down alcohol more slowly.
This means that you become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists “About a third of older people with drinking problems (mainly women) develop them for the first time in later life”.
Bereavement, physical ill-health, difficulty getting around and social isolation can lead to boredom and depression. COVID has added to the social isolation problem and we have seen an increase in depression and an increase in those drinking at home.
Drink Wise, Age Well
In a report by the International Longevity Centre UK, as part of the Drink Wise, Age Well programme they found that:
- Respondents over 50 who feel downhearted or depressed are nearly 4 times as likely to be a higher risk drinker. They also found that the strongest predictor for being a higher risk drinker is not coping with stress.
- Around 4 in 5 of increasing risk drinkers said that on no occasion had relatives, friends, doctors, or other health workers been concerned about their drinking or suggested that they cut down. 1 in 5 higher risk drinkers had never been asked.
- Around a quarter (23%) of respondents would not know where to go for help if they needed it, with 1 in 4 saying they would not tell anyone if they needed help.
As you get older the body also starts to fail and often it can be tempting to use alcohol to deal with the aches and pains. And as we have said above it is not uncommon for health professionals not to spot drinking problems in older people as often as they should, because:
- Older people tend to talk even less about their drinking habits that younger people.
- Health professionals mistake the effects of alcohol for physical or mental health problems.
- Health professionals forget that older people may have drink problems, so they don’t look so hard for it or have the time to ask older people about their drinking.
Problematic drinking effects everyone, irrespective of age but in older people it can:
- Lead to some kinds of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and brain damage
- Worsen some health conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, memory loss and mood disorders
- Make some medical problems hard for health professionals to find and treat—for example, alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels. These changes can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack.
- Causes some older people to be forgetful and confused—these symptoms could be mistaken for signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help. So what should look out for?
Alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive. These are some signs to look out for that suggest you, or someone you care about, has a problem with alcohol:
- Worrying about where your next drink is coming from and planning day to day events around alcohol consumption or access to it.
- Finding you have a compulsive need to drink i.e., you can’t go through the day without a drink.
- Finding you can’t stop once you start.
- Waking up and drinking – or feeling the need to have a drink in the morning.
- Suffering from physical withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking and nausea, which stop once you drink alcohol.
- Turning to alcohol to cope with emotional issues, loneliness, pain, stress, isolation, bereavement etc.
- Being told by someone else that they are concerned about your drinking.
If you would like to change your relationship with alcohol, then Help Me Stop has a solution. Click and review what we have to offer. At the same time, you will be presented with the opportunity to Live Chat with one of the team or alternately call us now on 0208 191 9191.
It is never to late to address problematic drinking and online treatment is juts as effective as face to face treatment. Hear what Danielle has to say about her experience of Help Me Stop’s online programme.
Danielle is over 50 and fits much of the profile of the above. Danielle has been a “recreational drinker” for a number of years. She does see a health professional regularly but not once have they asked her about her drinking. She has suffered loss in her life but never really dealt this or a range of other emotional issues. She has never really talked to anyone about this, especially not a professional. Her drinking has increased over time.
“My drinking was getting out of control. I knew I needed help to stop before I put my very life in danger. In desperation I searched the internet and clicked on Help Me Stop. I summoned the courage to make that initial call and was immediately reassured. The message that ‘You can’t do this alone’ and ‘Will power isn’t enough’ relieved my desperation and explained all of those failed attempts to control my drinking.
I enrolled in the six week ‘Dayhab’ group therapy programme which was conveniently offered on-line every weekday evening. The programme is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous principles and gently guides participants through the first days and weeks of sobriety. I am now a successful ‘graduate’ of the ‘Help Me Stop’ programme. I have been given the tools to continue to progress one day at a time and to enjoy the satisfaction and contentment of living without reliance on alcohol. I am very grateful for the support of the Help Me Stop therapists and group members who made this such an enriching experience”.
The evidence, and the research, tell us that engaging in psychotherapy programmes, such as Help Me Stops’, and integrating this with peer support like that of Alcoholics Anonymous delivers the best opportunity for long term sobriety.
If you would like to change your relationship with alcohol, then Help Me Stop has a solution so please review what we have to offer. At the same time, you will be presented with the opportunity to Live Chat with one of the team or alternately call us now on 0208 191 9191
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop’s Director of Operations and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.