Alcohol and drug addictions a risk factor for senior citizens

Cologne, Germany - Elderly people have a higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol or medicine and this can often go unnoticed by people in their surroundings.

"In a situation like that, the confusion experienced by an old person can often be mistaken for a sign of old age even though it may mean they're addicted to tablets," explains Martin Haupt, deputy president of the German Society of Geropsychiatry and Psychotherapy.

Family members should inform themselves about how many sleeping pills and sedatives the elderly person is taking.

Drugs are broken down at a slower rate in their bodies which can lead to an overdose or the drug becoming ineffective.

"Increasing isolation and unstructured time can help an addiction develop," warns Haupt.

In a case like that, drinking a glass of whiskey regularly can lead to alcohol dependency without anyone else noticing.

Changing lifestyles mean the elderly are consuming more alcohol than in previous generations.

"This is likely to become even more evident in the future," says Haupt.

"Addictions that begin at a late stage in life are, however, easy to treat. Anyone who thinks they might be affected should not delay seeking advice or visiting a psychiatrist." (dpa)