Hospital Resources - Substance Abuse

As people age, they naturally become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Older adults are not able to absorb alcohol at the rate they once did which causes the alcohol to stay in their bodies longer. An older adult drinking the same amount as a younger adult will have a higher percentage of alcohol in their body. (3) The combination of these effects lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol.

Why is it important?

  • An older adult can develop alcohol-related problems even when drinking habits remained the same (3)
  • Heavy drinking can damage the liver, heart, brain, muscle and bone
  • Heavy drinking can increase risk of cancers and immune disorders (3)
  • Drinking can make existing health conditions worse: diabetes, memory problems, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, mood disorders and osteoporosis (3)

Common Causes

  • Major life changes (e.g. death of a loved one, moving to a new home, failing health, poverty) can cause loneliness, boredom, anxiety, or depression (2)
  • Older adults faced with large amounts of free time after retirement may turn to alcohol (4)

Older adults suffer a large proportion of health consequences from smoking and could benefit from cessation.

Why is it important?

  • Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic respiratory disease (7)
  • Smoking is the leading cause of premature death; heavy smokers can lose about 9 years of life expectancy (6)
  • Older smokers are at greater risks because they have smoked longer: 61% of senior non-smokers are actually former smokers;  and they tend to be heavier smokers as 86% smoked daily (7) (1)
  • Cessation later in life adds years to life and improves quality of life: e.g. risk of myocardial infarction and stroke is reduced by 40% or more  within 5 years after the last cigarette (1) (2)
  • Intensive smoking cessation treatment has been shown to significantly reduce re-hospitalization (9)

Common Causes

  • Stress of unemployment,  homelessness, personal problems, financial strain, or physical/verbal abuse (10)
  • Addiction to alcohol, cocaine, or heroin can make one vulnerable to smoking (10)
  • Older smokers are less likely than younger smokers to believe smoking harms health or cessation offers benefits at advanced age (1)