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A study conducted by New York University found that more than 1 in 10 Americans 65 years old and older currently binge drink. Binge drinking is defined as a man consuming 5 or more alcoholic drinks in under 2 hours or a woman consuming 4 or more drinks in under 2 hours. Binge drinking in older communities is especially concerning as the aging process creates enhanced vulnerability to numerous sicknesses and conditions that are caused or worsened by alcohol abuse. Other results revealed a connection between older men and cannabis use which increased binge drinking rates.
The study focused on 10,927 American adults who were 65 years old or older. The participants were all cooperating with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. The lead author of the study was Benjamin Han MD, MPH, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care and the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. He conducted this study with collogues, using binge drinking standards of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Han and his collogues surmised that “1 in 10 older adults binge drink in a month” which was an increase from previous studies, which found that between 7.7% and 9% of older American binge drank. Another interesting finding was in the focus group use of other substances.
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The studies found elderly binge drinkers were more likely to be men, African-American, and use marijuana and tobacco. Perhaps the binge drinking was a common in these target groups as alcohol and tobacco are a common pairing. Unfortunately, there are many health problems associated with poly-drug use, or combining drugs with alcohol or other substances.
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The study also found that there were common diseases among binge drinking individuals. 41% of elderly binge drinkers suffered from hypertension, 23.1% with cardiovascular disease, and 17.7% with diabetes. One theory as to why this is so is so is that individuals with diseases are using alcohol to cope, as health problems can be stressful and destabilizing. Older binge drinkers also reported more hospital visits compared to individuals who drank less amounts of alcohol.
Although there is still much study regarding this topic, binge drinking is considered a hazard as it encourages one to develop a tolerance to alcohol. Alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain and can easily turn into a dependence. This can be hard to stop once someone overindulges. Elderly drinking can encourage depression, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms similar to other age groups. Additionally, elderly binge drinking can include age-specific problems like falling, and if paired with taking pain meds, complicated side effects.
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