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Alcohol Use and Abuse: An Introduction

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Alcohol Abuse: How do you assess a problem?

Alcoholism Gene Factors Show Up in Very Young

Negative Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Women

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Negative Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Adolescents and the Elderly 

Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Adolescents: 

effects of alcohol abuseThe effects of alcohol abuse on adolescents is very different from the way problem drinking effects adult alcoholics.  As you may expect, adolescents have a relatively short history of problem drinking.  Because of their comparatively short history of heavy drinking, one of the major differences related to the effects of alcohol abuse on adolescents is that it is very rare to have physiological dependence on alcohol or alcohol-related medical complications.  The abuse of alcohol and drugs however contributes in important ways to morbidity and mortality in adolescents, with the leading causes being motor vehicle accidents, homicide, and suicide. The negative effects of alcohol abuse on adolescents also need to be considered within the context of the values and behaviors of the adolescentís peer group when talking to or providing treatment.  These values also need to be considered when conducting an evaluation of an adolescentís drinking behavior.  Also, evaluation of problematic drinking behavior by an adolescent also needs to take into account other prominent developmental issues that characterize adolescence, including the conflict that seems to be inherent when an adolescent becomes more independent from their family. 

There have been a number of instruments developed to assess the effects of alcohol abuse on adolescents as well as some of the additional problems associated with their substance use and abuse.  It is usually believed that when dealing with adolescents, given their economic and emotional dependence, whenever it is possible, it is important to have a thorough evaluation of the family in order to understand the adolescentís use of drugs as well as to understand the negative effects of alcohol abuse on them and their families. 


Effects of alcohol abuse on the elderly: 

Although problem drinking is less pervasive among the elderly, the effects of alcohol abuse in this age group are known to increase morbidity significantly. Alcoholic elderly have significantly poorer psychosocial functioning and suffer from more chronic medical problems than elderly nonalcoholics.  Also, the increased use of prescription medications also increases the potential for adverse pharmacokinetic interactions with alcohol. Also, the decrease in cognitive abilities associated with heavy alcohol use can also increase medication errors and noncompliance with treatment regimens for chronic medical conditions. 

The effects of alcohol abuse on the elderly and their manifestations are often more subtle and nonspecific than what may be observed among younger individuals.  Because self-reported problematic drinking behaviors may be unreliable in the elderly, other sources of information from family and neighbors should be used to identify problematic drinking.  Some of the following areas should be considered systematically when considering problematic drinking and the effects of alcohol abuse on the elderly: untreated medical illnesses, prescription drug abuse, psychiatric comorbidity, cognitive impairment, functional assessment, as well as the need for social services.

Similar to the approach used in assessing the effects of alcohol abuse among younger adults, alcoholism among the elderly has been classified according to the age of onset.  Some studies have found that about two thirds of elderly alcoholics began heavy drinking prior to the age of 60, with the remaining one third beginning drinking heavily after the age of 60.  Late onset alcoholism frequently appears more often among women and people of higher socioeconomic status and is usually not associated with a family history of alcoholism.  As might be expected, older alcoholics with early-onset alcoholism also have more alcohol-related medical and psychosocial problems and are more likely to require alcoholism treatment for the negative effects of their alcohol abuse.

From DSM-IV-TR Mental Disorders: Diagnosis, Etiology and Treatment by Michael B. First and Allan Tasman

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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