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Alcohol drinking in the elderly: Risks and benefits
Date:6/27/2011

The Royal College of Psychiatrists of London has published a report related primarily to problems of unrecognized alcohol misuse among the elderly. The report provides guidelines for psychiatrists and family physicians on how to find and how to treat elderly people with misuse of alcohol and drugs. Forum members consider it very important to identify abusive drinking among the elderly and this report provides specific and very reasonable recommendations to assist practitioners in both the identification and treatment of such problems.

There is no question that, on average, very elderly people may be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol (especially those individuals with chronic diseases, lower muscle mass, a poor diet, etc.) It should be made clear, however, that 65-year-olds are healthier than people of that age a generation ago - age-specific disability rates are decreasing, not increasing.

The report also recommends lower "sensible limits" for older people in comparison with younger people The International Forum on Alcohol Research scientific reviewers point out inherent difficulties in providing guidelines for a very non-homogenous group of individuals whose only criterion for inclusion, in this paper, is being above the age of 65 years Such a group includes individuals varying from marathon runners to very sick, frail people.

The report was conspicuously lacking in a discussion of the important role that moderate drinking can play in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, diabetes, dementia, and osteoporosis. Advising healthy people aged 65 years or older who are moderate, responsible drinkers to stop drinking or to markedly reduce their intake would not be in their best health interests, especially in terms of their risk of cardiovascular diseases. Forum reviewers thought that advice to lower limits of drinking for everyone in this age group is not based on reliable research, and would certain
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Contact: R. Curtis Ellison
ellison@bu.edu
508-333-1256
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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