News Health

Sunday 31 August 2014

Medicine and drugs a lethal mix for elderly

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

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55 per cent of alcohol in Ireland is now sold in off licences and supermarkets
55 per cent of alcohol in Ireland is now sold in off licences and supermarkets

ELDERLY people who are on prescribed medicines are putting their health at risk by drinking alcohol, a new study has revealed.

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More than seven in 10 adults over the age of 60 in Ireland are on prescribed medications and, of these, 60pc of people reported they take a drink as well, said Dr Grainne Cousins, lecturer in the School of Pharmacy in the Royal College of Surgeons.

Almost one in five older adults combined heavy drinking with cardiovascular agents and anti-diabetic agents, with 16pc admitting to heavy drinking with central nervous system (CNS) agents. She pointed out that alcohol can interact harmfully with certain prescription medications and can have major adverse effects which can alter the metabolism of the drugs, causing liver toxicity, gastrointestinal inflammation and bleeding, sedation and interference with the overall effectiveness of the medication itself.

The research also identified people aged 60-64 years of age, urban-dwelling men with higher levels of education, a history of smoking, and increasing illnesses were most at risk of exposure to heavy alcohol consumption.

She said: “Older adults are susceptible to adverse effects from the simultaneous use of prescription medications and alcohol, in part because of changes in absorption, distribution and metabolism of alcohol and other medication with age.

“The use of psychotropic drugs , such as antidepressants, anxiolytics and anti-psychotic medications with heavy alcohol consumption is of particular concern to us.

“They may cause the most dangerous alcohol-related adverse drug reactions. For example, consumption of alcohol increases the sedative effects of benzodiazepines, and antidepressants, which can result in outcomes such as falls, motor vehicle accidents and even death.

“If such alcohol consumption trends continue, the number of older adults at risk of alcohol-related drug events will increase in future years.”

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