Saying “No Thanks” to Risky Drinking

Although a single glass of red wine may have health benefits, many people found their drinking escalated during the pandemic and now, as life returns to a more “normal” pace and people are gathering in-person for work and social events, it may be time to check in with drinking habits. Older adults who have chronic health conditions or who take medications may want to avoid risky drinking in social situations, especially if they are driving, but feel pressure to drink.  

As we plan to reschedule celebrations with family and friends or host face-to-face work events, it’s important for organizers to offer non-alcoholic beverages to people in attendance.  Many adults don’t drink for religious reasons, because of a disability that is worsened by alcohol, or because they are in recovery from alcohol use disorder.  For people trying hard to shed their pandemic pounds, avoiding alcohol can reduce caloric intake and strengthen resolve when it comes to overeating. 

For those who feel pressured to drink or explain why they aren’t consuming alcohol, it’s a good idea to practice a calm response, a simple “No thanks” or “I don’t drink” should suffice but some people can’t help but ask more questions.  Steer the conversation to other topics of shared interest, and stand proudly behind your decision. 

A recent poll of drinking habits from the National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 23 percent of adults over the age of 50 who drink alcohol reported that they routinely had three or more drinks in one sitting.  Ten percent of adults who drink use other drugs while drinking, including marijuana or prescription medications that can interact with alcohol.  These interactions, along with excess alcohol use, can lead to falls causing injury, immune system decline, and more memory loss among older adults.

Because our body’s ability to process alcohol changes in older age, what adults may have been able to handle in their younger years can pose a health risk later in life.  Seniors with heart issues, diabetes, liver disease, or other chronic illness should limit their alcohol use to protect their health or avoid risky drinking altogether.  

Think you might benefit from help to stop drinking?  There are many treatment options available today including telehealth programs, support groups, and talk therapy.  Visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to learn more.