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Boozing Boomers: Increasing Rates of Alcohol Use

By: Carol Morriscey

Growing Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking

Despite the growing knowledge of the risks of drinking, baby boomers’ drinking continues to increase, presenting significant clinical concerns. Over the past several decades the rates of drinking have substantially decreased in many age groups, likely due to increased awareness of the negative health consequences. In spite of this fact, drinking rates have almost tripled over the past decade in the baby boomer generation. The generation born between 1946 and 1964 represents 33% of America’s population, while consuming 45% of the nation’s alcohol.

The rates of “risky drinking” is steadily rising. The gap between men and women’s alcohol consumption is quickly narrowing and women’s binge drinking has increased 4%. Despite the growing knowledge of the hazards of drinking, baby boomers continue to put themselves at risk. As a generation, their liberal views of alcohol use puts them in danger of developing alcohol addiction. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, women should have no more than 10 drinks per week, and men should have no more than 15. Unfortunately, more than 1-in-5 of those over the age of 65 exceed these low-risk drinking guidelines.

Drinking Poses a Greater Risk As Baby Boomers Age

As baby boomer’s alcohol consumption increases, they continue to put themselves at risk of serious health conditions, and alcohol addiction. Alcohol related hospital visits have increased by almost two-thirds over the past decade, with baby boomers accounting for over half of the visits. There are several factors which put this generation at particular risk. As the baby boomers age, more and more will have prescription medications. Drinking while taking prescription medication increases the risk of drug interactions and the likelihood of adverse effects.

Aging poses a greater risk for alcohol consumption, as well. As we age, our metabolism changes and we are no longer able to consume the same quantities of alcohol we once were. The same amount of alcohol will produce a much higher blood alcohol level in an older adult than that same person as a young adult. Therefore, the dangers of alcohol consumption increase with age.

Finally, the statistics show that rates of alcohol consumption are increasing more steeply in women. This poses a distinct problem, as women naturally have a less water and a higher percentage of body fat than men. As a result, the alcohol which they consume is not spread as evenly throughout their body, meaning they have a higher blood alcohol level than men who consume the same quantity of alcohol. This, in combination with the disparate increases in rates of binge drinking, puts women at an even greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of alcohol.

Why Alcohol Addiction Treatment is Difficult

The good news is, older adults respond very well to alcohol addiction treatment, when attending alcohol rehab. They are more likely to comply with treatment and are typically more likely to recover and avoid relapse. However, the problems occur with getting them into an addiction treatment centre or alcohol rehab in the first place. There are many barriers to identifying the alcohol addiction, now known as an alcohol use disorder. First of all, as the lifestyle of the baby boomers changes, isolation becomes more common. Retirement, loss of loved ones and friends, and children moving out of the house may greatly limit the social interactions they may be having. Therefore, there are fewer opportunities for others to identify an issue with alcohol use.

Furthermore, healthcare practitioners are less likely to identify an alcohol use disorder in an older adult, because they do not match the typical profile of a person struggling with alcohol addiction—usually imagined as a younger adult. Further, signs of the alcohol use disorder may be misinterpreted. For example, when an older adult has a fall as a result of heavy drinking, the healthcare practitioner is more likely to assume it is related to aging, not alcohol.

Finally, there are risk factors which may make the boomer more prone to alcohol abuse. Coping with changing lifestyles, such as a lack of responsibility which may have come from a job or raising children is now gone. As their friend group ages alongside them, they may turn to alcohol to cope with deaths. They may also use it to self-medicate if they are suffering from depression or chronic pain.

Searidge Foundation strives to create a comfortable and customized experience for each patient who attends Searidge Alcohol Rehab. As such, treatment plans specific to the unique needs of the baby boomer generation make recovery from alcohol addiction an attainable goal.

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