What Causes Late-Onset Alcoholism?

Many people aged 65 and older drink beer, wine, or liquor. And unfortunately, significant numbers of these older adults develop problems that require enrollment in alcohol addiction treatment. Some seniors in need of treatment have been affected by alcohol addiction since earlier stages of their lives. However, others develop new, late-onset alcohol problems. There is no single explanation for the arrival of these problems when you’re older. Instead, multiple factors can contribute to their appearance. 

What Is Late-Onset Alcoholism?

There is no set definition for late-onset alcoholism. However, generally speaking, the term refers to alcoholism that first appears after you reach the age of 65. You may also develop diagnosable symptoms of late-onset, non-addicted alcohol abuse. Under modern definitions, alcoholism and alcohol abuse are two sides of the same coin: alcohol use disorder (AUD). Cases of AUD may include isolated or combined symptoms of each of these conditions. 

No one knows for sure how many Americans first develop AUD in later life. The same holds true for overall estimates of alcohol problems in this age group. Official estimates place the number of all seniors with AUD at just 1% to 3% of the total elderly population. However, research shows that the actual figure may be up to ten times higher. 

What Causes Late-Onset Alcoholism? Changes in Your Body’s Response to Alcohol

One potential factor in the development of late-onset AUD is your body’s changing response to alcohol. As you get older, your system processes alcohol at a slower rate. This slowdown has consequences that include:

  • Making you more sensitive to alcohol’s effects
  • Increasing your blood levels of alcohol even when your consumption doesn’t increase

When it comes to alcohol addiction, these changes have a crucial impact. Namely, a level of drinking that didn’t create an AUD risk when you were younger may create one now. 

Other Physical Risk Factors for Late-Onset Alcohol Problems

Other age-related factors in your physical health can also increase your chances of developing alcohol use disorder. Examples of these factors include:

  • Chronic pain and/or chronic illness
  • Movement problems and other kinds of physical disabilities
  • A general decline in your overall physical well-being

In addition, your risks may increase as a result of interactions between alcohol and a variety of prescription medications.

What Causes Late-Onset Alcoholism? Mental and Psychological Risk Factors

Your mental and emotional health can also affect your risks for late-onset AUD. One common issue for seniors is the impact of social isolation. The death of a spouse may also be a factor. In addition, you may face other age-related stresses. One example of this kind of stress is retirement. Another is the need to relocate or move into a new home. Current or past mental illness may also play a role. 

Recently, researchers have identified another possible factor: dementia. For some seniors, new drinking problems are an early sign of this condition. You may experience them in connection with Alzheimer’s disease. You may also experience them in connection with frontotemporal dementia. In some cases, late-onset AUD is the very first symptom to appear. 

Get More Information on Late-Onset Alcoholism at Promises Right Step

Want to know more about the potential causes of late-onset alcohol problems? Talk to the addiction specialists at Promises Right Step. We can provide you with a full rundown of your potential risks. In addition, we can help you or your loved one avoid developing AUD.

The experts at Promises can also help you or your loved one recover from existing AUD. That’s true whether your problems are longstanding or late-developing. Call us today at 17135283709 to learn more about our customized alcohol treatment options. You can also contact us through our online message form.

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