The independent. (Vernonia, Or.) 1986-current, December 18, 2003, Page Page 21, Image 21

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    The INDEPENDENT, December 18, 2003
Page 21
Alcohol addiction in older citizens is called “invisible epidemic”
Remember when your hus-
band came home from work
and made a “highball” or mixed
a martini? People used to go
out for drinks a lot. But physi-
cians, social workers and
younger family members are
increasingly concerned that the
occasional drink has become,
for too many seniors, a new
wave of people for whom alco-
hol is becoming a health prob-
lem: just too much of a good
Senior citizen drinking prob-
lems have been labeled “the in-
visible epidemic” in some med-
ical circles. More than one in
six Americans over 60 years of
age are overly dependent on
alcohol, according to a Univer-
sity of Illinois report. Another re-
port from the Federal Sub-
stance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration
says the problem is “under-esti-
mated, under-identified, under-
diagnosed and under-treated.”
By one estimate, overuse of al-
cohol rivals heart attacks as a
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Mario jr., Angelina,
Santina, Amber
& Alica
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721 Madison Ave
cause of premature death
among seniors.
Overuse of alcohol can cre-
ate serious health problems as
people age. As people’s body
mass decreases, the concen-
tration of alcohol in the blood
for each drink consumed goes
up, so does its effect. Of the top
100 drugs prescribed for sen-
iors, literally half of them have
adverse reactions with alcohol.
Combining prescription drugs
with alcohol can be extremely
dangerous because alcohol
can quadruple the effect of a
prescription drug. Alcohol inter-
actions with prescription drugs
can have negative effects like
hemorrhage, malnutrition and
liver damage.
What is of greater concern to
many physicians is the effect of
too much alcohol on the brain.
In one study, seniors who had
reported over-use of alcohol
were given an IQ test. They
performed significantly worse
than a same-age control group.
Physicians who studied the
brains of people who used al-
cohol to excess found that their
subjects’ brains showed an ad-
vanced aging process; brain
scans were similar to people
many years older. Older
abusers suffer more age-relat-
ed symptoms and impairment
than their peers or younger
Overuse of alcohol is an
easy habit to acquire, accord-
ing to the University of Illinois
study. Of course, a person who
has had a lifetime problem of
alcohol abuse will likely contin-
ue if nothing happens to
change their drinking. But most
older people who fall into the
problem don’t start over-in-
dulging until a serious physical
or lifestyle change hits them: a
serious health problem, the
death of a spouse, a change in
their financial situation, depres-
sion or sleeplessness might
trigger overdrinking.
Merry Christmas
& Happy New Year
Precision Building Maintenance,
PBM Inc. Would like to wish all of you,
A Season of Love,
Happiness & Peace.
P.O. Box 313, Vernonia, OR 97064
Have a
holiday season
that’s filled
with laughter
fond feelings
for all.
CCB# 144926
Best Wishes
for the
Holiday Season
and the New Year
Enjoy Free Checking at
From all the crew at
Amy, Crystal, Janice, Linda, Mary,
Sharon, Sue, Toni, and Wendy
Vernonia Branch
Carol, Mary, Teresa, Sharon, Pam and Betts
Shame is a huge factor for
many. They know they are
drinking too much, but don’t
want to be labeled “alcoholics”
or feel the embarrassment that
they are afraid will befall them if
they seek help. It’s hardest for
women who have the problem,
but more women than men fall
into late-onset alcohol abuse.
Often enough, friends will
spot the problem, but don’t
want to “interfere.” Sometimes
families fail to help because of
their own denial, or taking the
attitude reflected by “Why both-
er now? A little alcohol won’t
hurt and it may make the days
easier for mom or dad.” But ac-
cording to Carol Colleran, di-
rector of Older Adult Services
at Hanley-Halelden clinic in
West Palm Beach, Florida,
“The truth is alcohol and other
drug abuse among older peo-
ple leads to great physical and
emotional deterioration and de-
prives them of the chance to
enjoy their later years.”
According to Colleran, when
treatment is provided to older
adults, they tend to do very well,
better than their younger counter-
parts. Older adults tend to comply
with requests to go to treatment
and they finish treatment at a
greater rate than younger adults.
And because people are living
longer these days, it makes no
sense to assume that people are
too old to change. It’s never too
late to get help.
The Illinois study is hopeful.
“Overuse of alcohol can com-
plicate virtually every aspect of
an older person’s life. But sen-
iors have a higher rate of re-
covery from substance abuse
than younger people. It’s never
too late to turn a life around.”
Washington County Disabili-
ty, Aging and Veteran Services
(DAVS) works to create options
for older persons, people with
disabilities and veterans to im-
prove the quality of their lives
and to enable persons to live as
independently as they can for
as long as possible. This in-
volves assessing needs; plan-
ning and coordinating services;
developing services; advocat-
ing for their needs; and deliver-
ing and monitoring cost effec-
tive social and health services.
DAVS may be reached at 503-
640-3489 or by e-mail through
its website: <>.