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 thing. 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 From, Mario, Markus, Mario jr., Angelina, Santina, Amber & Alica L eonetti’s Pizza & Grill 721 Madison Ave Vernonia 503-429-5018 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 drowsiness, disorientation, 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 people. 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 delightful holiday season that’s filled with laughter and fond feelings for all. 503.429.1042 CCB# 144926 Best Wishes for the Holiday Season and the New Year Enjoy Free Checking at From all the crew at B RIDGE S TREET M INI M ART 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: <www.co.washing- ton.or.us/aging>.