Americans ages 50 and older are more likely to seek treatment for alcohol dependence than any other drug addiction, and older men are particularly at risk of problem drinking.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released data this week showing that 48 percent of the 164,000 Americans ages 50 and older that sought addiction treatment in 2003 were seeking help for alcohol dependence. Of these, 80 percent were men.
Many of these patients were experiencing their first serious addiction problems: 45 percent were first-time treatment participants, according to the report, “Older Adult Alcohol Admissions: 2003,” drawn from the 2003 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).
“Alcohol abuse among older adults is something few want to talk about, and a problem for which even fewer seek treatment on their own,” said SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie. “Too often, family members are ashamed of the problem and choose not to address it. Healthcare providers tend not to ask older patients about alcohol abuse if it wasn't a problem in their lives in earlier years. That may help explain why so many of the alcohol-related admissions to treatment among older adults are for first-time treatment, even though we know that treatment works well at every age.”