Planning a margarita party for Cinco de Mayo? The National Institute on Aging says seniors should review their medications first, to prevent dangerous drug-alcohol interactions.
As we grow older, we’re more likely to develop health conditions that can affect our quality of life. The medications we take help us manage these conditions. But medications often have side effects, either by themselves, or in combination with other drugs. As we grow older, we’re more likely to experience these side effects, because our bodies process substances differently than they did when we were younger.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) also warns that many of these drugs can be dangerous if we take them with alcohol. These medications include those prescribed for common conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Mood disorders
- Cough and cold
- Blood clots
- Enlarged prostate
- Heartburn and indigestion
- High cholesterol
Just as our bodies process medications differently as we age, we’re also more affected by alcohol—and the combined effects of both. Shedding light on the extent of this problem, the NIAAA conducted a study of 26,000 adults and found that almost half of senior adults who drink alcohol also take some of the above medications, putting themselves at risk of side effects that range from mild—nausea, headaches, loss of coordination—to severe, including internal bleeding, heart problems and difficulty breathing.
“Our findings show that a substantial percentage of people who drink regularly, particularly older adults, could be at risk of harmful alcohol and medication interactions,” said Dr. Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist in NIAAA’s Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. “We suggest that people talk to their doctor or pharmacist about whether they should avoid alcohol while taking their prescribed medications.”
Dr. Breslow also recently reported that more seniors today are using alcohol, and many of them are drinking more than is safe. These studies remind us that drinking too much is very bad for the health of seniors—and when you add medications to the mix, the results can be deadly.
Visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website to find a complete list of commonly used medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) that can have a negative reaction with alcohol.