Alcohol addiction: Many older people affectedToo much alcohol can quickly become a problem for older people. Who is particularly at risk for alcoholism? And how to treat the addiction?
More and more older people drink too much alcohol. Not everyone is physically dependent. But the body tolerates less alcohol with increasing age. Because the water content of the body's cells decreases, the alcohol content in the blood rises more quickly after a glass of beer, wine, liqueur or schnapps. And the liver takes longer to detoxify: Because the organ often has to break down not only the alcohol, but also the ingredients of various medications.
Reasons for high alcohol consumption in old age
Many older people drink alcohol for a long time in a socially accepted setting, for example a glass of beer or wine in the evening. But after negative life events such as unemployment, separation from a partner, or death of a close relative, alcohol consumption can rise slowly but steadily: The path to addiction is a gradual process.
With alcohol, those affected often try to compensate for a lack of affection or recognition or to forget their loneliness. Some people lose control at some point: their thoughts then revolve only around the alcohol. This can lead to physical dependence, but also to psychological dependence: Those affected believe they cannot live without alcohol.
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How much alcohol is harmful?
– At Women this corresponds to about half a liter of beer, 0.2 liters of wine/champagne or about three 40-percent schnapps. – At men According to the WHO, one and a half times the amount is harmless for men.
However, according to recent findings, the harmless amount of alcohol per day is much lower. Experts also recommend one to two days without alcohol per week.
The effect of alcohol consumption depends on the individual case. Since alcohol is a poison for the body, damage from alcohol consumption can never be ruled out.
Recognizing alcohol addiction at an early stage
– Some alcohol addicts live temporarily abstinent ("quarter drinkers"). – Some are able to control their daily alcohol intake but are unable to abstain from alcohol for even a few days. They need a constant level of alcohol ("mirror drinkers").
Whether and when older people should abstain from alcohol or limit their consumption depends on the psychological, social and physical consequences of alcohol consumption.
Health and social consequences of alcohol addiction
Regular, high alcohol consumption damages the organs, especially the liver: it enlarges to the point of fatty liver and thus its function is severely impaired. In addition, too much alcohol can lead to inflammation of the liver, pancreas and stomach lining. Memory also suffers because brain cells die off. The risk of developing a tumor of the oral cavity, pharynx or liver increases.
Alcohol also leaves its mark on interpersonal relationships: it is not uncommon for alcoholics to withdraw and break off contact with friends or acquaintances
A withdrawal therapy in the addiction clinic lasts at least 15 weeks. The brain must learn to cope without alcohol as a problem solver. One component is memory training. In therapy, those affected learn to deal with feelings such as sadness, joy, anger and rage without alcohol.
The prevailing view is: if you are addicted to alcohol, you must never drink again, otherwise you risk relapse. But many alcoholics do not manage complete abstinence. For them, "controlled drinking" would be a good idea An alternative: those affected try to reduce their alcohol consumption, for example drinking only two instead of six beers a day. They also participate in behavioral therapy programs and keep a drinking diary. Some also join together in self-help groups.
The therapy concept has been around for 20 years. It is controversial among experts. Certainly not suitable for everyone affected. However, it can be a help for those who otherwise would not do any therapy at all.
Alcohol addiction: Help for self-help
In Germany there is a well-developed support network for alcohol addicts. In large cities and in numerous towns, those affected can find professional help in counseling centers and hospitals. Those who are not sure which offer is optimal can contact the respective state office for addiction ies.
An overview of all contact points is also provided by the German Federal Center for Health Education (Bundeszentrale fur gesundheitliche Aufklarung). In addition to counseling centers, there are many self-help groups such as Guttempler, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Blue Cross, among others. Here, those affected meet regularly in a group and receive support and encouragement.
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Alcohol addiction can affect anyone
The leisurely glass of wine after work quickly turns into whole bottles. Every year, at least 73 people in Germany die.000 people from the consequences of alcohol abuse.