Most adults enjoy drinking alcohol on occasion. Sometimes, though, this occasional drink turns into a daily habit. One drink turns into two or more. If a person is not mindful, this habit could turn into an addiction. Addiction is also known as dependency or substance use disorder.
People can become addicted to not only alcohol but drugs, including prescription drugs (such as benzodiazepines and opiates). For example, nicotine, the drug found in cigarettes, is very addictive. Addictive behaviour can also be problematic, as in gambling, sex, or online gaming.
Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Yet a number of effective treatments are available and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives. – American Psychiatric Association, retrieved 03 Dec 2019.
For a number of reasons, it is essential to keep in mind that as we age, it is recommended we reduce our consumption of alcohol. For adults aged 65 and older, it is important to be aware of the low-risk guidelines.
Canada’s Low-Risk Guidelines (DrinkSense for Seniors) which is provided by the “Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction”, states that limits for adults (not older adults) who drink alcohol should be 10 drinks a week for women with no more than two per day, and 15 drinks a week for men with no more than three drinks a day on most days. There is no specific limit for older adults, but one of their “Safer Drinking Tips” includes the advice of “Always consider your age, body weight, and health problems that might suggest lower limits.”
Standard Drink Portions:
- Beer – 341 ml (12 oz.) of 5% alcohol content
- Wine – 142 ml (5 oz.) of 12% alcohol content
- Cider/Cooler – 341 m. (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
- Distilled alcohol/80 proof liquor (rye, gin, rum, vodka, etc.) – 43 ml (1.5 oz.) 40% alcohol content
Note: Not all wines are created equal. Some wines start at 5% alcohol content, some go as high as 18%!
I attended an “Aging and Addictions” course in November 2019 which was held by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, and they supported the drafted recommendations entitled “Prevention: Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines” for those 65 and older (noted below).
Low-Risk Drinking Limits (65+)
- Women: No more than 1 standard drink per day, with no more than 5 drinks in total per week.
- Men: No more than 1-2 standard drinks per day, with no more than 7 per week in total.
- Non-drinking days are recommended every week.
Source: Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Health. Canadian Guidelines for Older Adults. Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder, 2019.
These drafted guidelines are more in line with what I would recommend. I have seen what alcohol dependence can do to people and it is heartbreaking. And as noted in a previous post here on my website, to help preserve cognitive health, experts recommend no more than 2-4 drinks per week (see my Memory Rescue book review.)
For those who have a drinking problem, there is often stigma and shame attached. Many people can’t abstain or reduce their drinking behaviour on their own (harm reduction) and need help. If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, addiction or dependence, please contact the Addictions Helpline in your area.
If you are considering getting on top of your drinking problem and need someone to talk to, please contact me and I can assist you in finding the help you need.
Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW
“A Standard Drink” image source: https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/what-standard-drink