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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Feature:
Rethinking Drinking

Older Adults and Drinking

woman drinking a glass of wine

Generally, aging lowers the body's tolerance for alcohol. People experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger.

Drinking puts older adults at greater risk for falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries. Adults over 65 who are healthy and do not take medications should not have more than three drinks a day and seven in a week. Drinking more than this increases the risk of serious alcohol problems.

Heavy drinking makes certain health problems worse, too, including diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, osteoporosis, memory problems, and mood disorders.

Drinking and Medications

Many medications, such as the ones listed here, can interact badly with alcohol:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Cold and allergy medicine
  • Cough syrup
  • Sleeping pills
  • Pain medication
  • Anxiety or depression medicine

If you have a health problem or take certain medications, you may need to drink less or stop. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about alcohol and medications.

fastfacts
1
About 40 percent of adults ages 65 and older drink alcohol.
2
Older adults who take certain medications, have health problems or drink heavily can experience a variety of problems from alcohol.
3
Many prescription, over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol.

Spring 2014 Issue: Volume 9 Number 1 Page 27