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Recognizing Alcoholism in Older Adults

Older man seated outside in a park with his head in his hands displaying signs of alcohol abuse in older adults

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is not solely a young person’s issue. It can affect individuals at any stage of life, including older adults. However, this demographic is often overlooked when it comes to addiction treatment despite significant rates of AUD. The stigma surrounding addiction and the unique challenges older adults face make it crucial to address this issue. Recognizing alcoholism in older adults is the first step; seeking professional addiction treatment is the next.

Insight Recovery Center offers alcohol rehab in Asheville, NC, and is committed to helping North Carolina residents of any age overcome addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. If you are recognizing alcoholism in older adults close to you or even yourself, please call 828.826.1376 to learn about our programs and services. We are here to help.

The Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder in Older Adults

A 2021 analysis of national survey data estimated that 1 in 20 adults aged 65 or older had an alcohol use disorder in the past year1. Clearly, there is a need for alcohol use disorder treatment in the U.S. When imagining people with drinking problems, most Americans probably envision young people partying and socializing, not older Americans. However, alcohol is legal and easily accessible, and for many older adults, it has been a regular part of their lives for decades.

Alcohol can subtly become ingrained in a person’s daily routine in various ways. For instance, it may start with a glass of wine during dinner, viewed as a harmless way to unwind after a long day. Over time, this solitary glass can become two, then three, gradually increasing in frequency and volume. Additionally, social events often revolve around alcohol. Birthday parties, weddings, happy hours, and even casual get-togethers often feature alcoholic beverages, making drinking seem integral to socializing.

As individuals age, retirement can bring on feelings of loneliness or boredom, and alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism, further entrenching it in daily life. It’s crucial to be aware of these patterns and the potential they hold for developing into an alcohol use disorder.

Signs and Causes of AUD in Older Adults

The causes of alcohol use disorder in this demographic are multifaceted. Societal pressures and age-related issues such as retirement, isolation, loss of loved ones, or chronic pain can lead to increased alcohol consumption as a form of self-medication.

The signs of alcohol use disorder in older adults may vary widely. However, they often include the following:

  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Neglect of personal care
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Memory problems
  • Social isolation or withdrawal

It’s important to note that alcohol can interact with many medications and significantly affect older adults, leading to serious physical issues such as dehydration, organ damage, and an increased risk of falls. Additionally, alcoholism can be caused by a variety of factors. These include unresolved trauma, long-term stress, and chronic loneliness.

Seeking Professional Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

It’s important to remember that addiction is a treatable condition, no matter the age of the individual. Insight Recovery Center offers evidence-based alcohol rehab in Asheville, NC. Our focus is to help North Carolina residents of any age overcome addiction and any co-occurring mental health conditions.

The Intersection of Alcohol Use Disorder and Mental Health

Co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, often accompany AUD in older adults. These issues can complicate the recovery process and require a comprehensive approach to treatment that addresses both the AUD and the underlying mental health condition.

Find Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Today

At Insight Recovery Center, we understand the complexities of treating AUD in older adults. Our top-notch, evidence-based treatments are designed to address the unique needs of this demographic. We offer comprehensive care, including mental health support, medication management, and individual and group therapy.

We believe it is never too late to seek help upon recognizing alcoholism in older adults. If you or a loved one is struggling, call us at 828.826.1376 or reach out online. Together, we can work towards a healthier, happier future free from the bonds of addiction.


1Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – “Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.”