The reality of substance abuse can be difficult to accept, even for seniors. There are many senior citizens who struggle with alcoholism, and these people are in need of exceptional treatment options.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for recovery; seniors are no exception to this rule. In other words, medical practice for alcohol abuse that works well for young adults may not work well for elderly individuals. Not only that, but the complications that come with senior recovery are vastly different than that of an average adult or young person. 

Understanding alcoholism’s impact within the context of seniors can help others better evaluate as to what treatment is necessary to fit their rehab needs. This is just as significant as any other aspect of the recovery journey. Healing begins with understanding.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism could be described as an insatiable longing to consume alcohol. This is a very dangerous form of substance abuse. Most often, all somebody who suffers from alcoholism can do is keep their mind on alcohol. As a result, the temptation to abuse the substance grows exponentially, leading to the abuse of alcohol.

When anybody uses alcohol, the effect it has on the mind is intoxicating. The pleasure center in the brain is activated. A person’s desires are manipulated as a result, and over time, that desire becomes more and more difficult to satisfy. This encourages users to place drinking above everything else on their list of priorities.

Abusing alcohol is the top priority of anybody that wrestles with alcoholism. This often leads to them neglecting their families or loved ones. Monetary problems could also prevail as a result of that undeniable desire to drink. Alcohol is an expensive substance to keep on the shelf if someone is drinking often. This quickly turns into a financial burden in which the user places the necessity for alcohol above things such as medical bills or rent. When these kinds of issues arise, alcoholism has the power to tear loved ones apart.

Factors of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is often a result of the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Marital problems
  • Abuse of any kind

Alcoholism is a complicated illness. A  person who prioritizes drinking over anything else doesn’t just get there overnight. It all started somewhere and followed a chain of events that eventually led to that person becoming hooked. There are a seemingly infinite amount of circumstances that have the potential to lead somebody to find their identity in alcohol use.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Someone who suffers from alcoholism may express the following symptoms:

  • Lack of interest in any activity
  • Lack of motivation
  • Consistently inebriated 
  • Consistently lying
  • Irritability
  • Frequently falling
  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Alcoholics are likely cognizant of the fact that they’re addicted, and that addiction is a problem. Some who suffer often keep the truth of it suppressed because they’re scared to admit that they have a problem. Accepting the fact that the struggle is real can be a scary thing; it is much easier to deny that there is even a problem. This is why finding professional help is necessary when confronting alcoholism. 

The Consequences of Alcoholism 

  • Poor mental health
  • Cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Heart issues

Awareness of the consequences of alcoholism is imperative to combating it. Alcoholism could lead to a consequence that nobody is prepared for. It is important to seek professional help immediately if you believe a senior you love is wrestling with this illness.

Alcohol and the Elderly Physique

Tolerance for alcohol diminishes as the body ages. In other words, the effects of alcohol often accelerate as somebody gets older as opposed to when they were younger. As people age, fat replaces their muscle. Usually, alcohol absorbs quicker into muscle than it does to fat. Therefore it takes much longer to absorb completely, which results in higher blood-alcohol content.

Because of this, the body also takes a lot longer to digest alcohol, so it stays in their system much longer. As humans get older, the percentage of water that makes their bodies up declines by 15 percent. Less water means less hydration, and since alcohol dehydrates anyways, it makes it more difficult for a senior to stay hydrated.

How to Approach a Struggling Senior

The best way to approach anybody struggling with alcoholism is with love, respect, and understanding. As people age, they become more sensitive to shame and the stigma that alcoholism carries with it. Attacking them with guilt will only worsen the issue. They want to know that they are loved just as much as a young person does. Do more listening than talking, and ask deep questions that provoke accurate self-reflection. This goes a long way with the elderly.

Treatment Options

Understanding alcoholism can be difficult, and it can be just as difficult figuring out one’s options when it comes to rehab treatment. However, it is imperative that even before seeking help, those struggling experience understanding, love, and care. Love and compassion have the potential to bridge the gap between trust and suspicion. 

It is only after they are approached in a graceful manner that discussing rehab becomes an appropriate topic of conversation. Thankfully, at Discovery, there’s no shortage of treatment options, and our first priority is to provide you with the best care available for your loved one. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is a treatment method that is best for more serious cases of addiction. If the need should arise, this treatment includes 24/7 access to medical personnel. It also provides the patient with a place to live in the care of one of our facilities. This treatment could last anywhere from 28 days to six months. Discovery’s inpatient program may be just what your loved one needs to combat their illness.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment provides patients with access to the best therapists and psychiatrists that Discovery has to offer anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a week. This method of recovery is designed to treat milder cases of addiction and allows patients to recover while living in the comfort of their own home. This is very convenient for those who have a milder condition and a need to stay home to take care of their families.


Detox from alcohol includes the following side-effects:

  • Seizures 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Cutting off somebody who’s been drinking rather excessively for a long period of time is a dangerous thing to do. At Discovery, we want to be sure that we’re doing it right. The draw towards alcohol is difficult to overcome and can have a negative impact on someone who struggles with alcoholism. Medically assisted treatment (MAT) is available at Discovery and uses medicine to help a patient come off of frequent alcohol use gradually, and in a more comfortable way than cold-turkey.

Discovery is There for You

Discovery is committed to helping seniors who struggle with alcoholism. Our family desires to provide patients with the best care available so that we can help guide them to a place of stability. The last thing we want to happen is for your loved one to struggle with substance abuse, as it can have terrible consequences. These kinds of circumstances require the undivided attention of professional medical personnel that knows how to treat the effects of alcoholism.

It is imperative to us that we help those who want to be free from alcoholism move on to lead a life of stability and sobriety. We want more than anything to help them function healthier in their daily lives. However, treating patients can become difficult due to the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for treatment; every individual is unique and deserves quality, individualized treatment. Thankfully, our treatment options at Discovery are equipped to handle the most complex of circumstances. 

Every patient who walks through our doors deserves to feel as though they can live a life of freedom. Regardless of how much time they spend here, patients can know without a shadow of a doubt that they are being treated with the care they deserve. If there is a senior in your life that needs rehab, it is important to seek help immediately. Ask us about our treatment options, or contact us here. You can also call us at  (844) 433-1101. 


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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