Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a pervasive health issue that affects individuals across various age groups. However, the role of age in the development and progression of AUD is a critical aspect that requires thorough understanding.

The effects of alcohol use and the risks associated with it change throughout a person’s lifespan and vary between different age groups. Age is one of many factors that can impact intervention and treatment through alcohol rehab facilities and alcoholism treatment programs.

Understanding The Correlation Between Alcohol Use And Age

The development of alcohol-related issues has been studied amongst different age demographics and the findings have shown individuals both young and old have different reactions and long-term effects associated with drinking alcohol.

Teenage Alcohol Use Can Lead To Future Dependence

In their meticulous research, the scientists ensured to account for various other factors that could potentially contribute to the development of alcohol-related issues. These factors included family history, the length of alcohol exposure, and other risk elements present during childhood.

The pivotal discovery from the NIAAA study was a heightened risk of adult alcohol dependence for individuals who began consuming alcohol before the age of 15. The risk was found to be increased by 50%. A similar, albeit less pronounced, risk was also observed for those who initiated alcohol consumption between the ages of 15 and 17. It’s important for alcohol use disorder in adolescents and teenagers to be addressed immediately through therapeutic intervention to stop the negative progression.

Alcohol Use In College Students

College students and young adults who engage in binge drinking are more prone to alcohol poisoning, drunk-driving incidents, and assaults. On the other hand, older individuals who consume alcohol, even in moderation, while taking certain medications, risk harmful drug interactions.

  1. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), around 13% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 meet the criteria for past-year alcohol use disorder (AUD) 1.

The Rising Trend of Alcohol Use in Older Adults

Recent studies indicate a rising trend of alcohol use among older adults. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 20% of adults aged 60-64 and around 11% over age 65 report current binge drinking. This trend is concerning, given the unique health challenges and increased sensitivity to alcohol that older adults face.

Increased Sensitivity to Alcohol in Older Adults

As individuals age, their body’s tolerance for alcohol decreases. This increased sensitivity means that older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger. This heightened sensitivity puts older adults at higher risks for falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries that may result from drinking.

Health Complications from Alcohol Use in Older Adults

The health implications of alcohol use are more pronounced in older adults. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, osteoporosis, memory problems, and mood disorders, which are common in older adults, can be exacerbated by heavy drinking. Therefore, managing alcohol consumption is crucial in this demographic to prevent the worsening of these health conditions.

Interactions with Medications

Older adults often take prescription and over-the-counter medications, which can interact negatively with alcohol. Medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and allergy medicine, cough syrup, sleeping pills, pain medication, and anxiety or depression medicine can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. Therefore, it’s essential for older adults and their caregivers to be aware of these potential interactions.

Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption in Older Adults

To help older adults minimize risks associated with drinking, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture provide dietary guidelines. These guidelines recommend that older adults choose not to drink or limit their intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women.

Statistics about Alcohol Use Disorder and Age Groups

Alcohol use disorders are the most widespread substance use disorders in the United States among all age groups, highlighting the severity of the issue and the ongoing need for alcohol addiction rehab facilities and alcoholism treatment programs.

  • In 2020, 40.3 million people aged twelve or older (14.5% of the population) had a substance use disorder in the past year, including 28.3 million with alcohol use disorder and 18.4 million with an illicit drug use disorder. Respondents who used alcohol for six or more days in the past twelve months and met two or more of the DSM-5 criteria for alcohol use disorder were classified as having alcohol use disorder.
  • In 2020, 10.2% of people aged twelve or older (28.3 million people) had a past-year alcohol use disorder. The highest percentage of people with past-year alcohol use disorder was among young adults aged eighteen to twenty-five (15.6% or 5.2 million people), followed by adults aged twenty-six or older (10.3% or 22.4 million people), and then by adolescents aged twelve to seventeen (2.8% or 712,000 people).

Final Thoughts On Alcohol Use Disorder and Age

The role of age in the development and progression of AUD is multifaceted. As the population of older adults increases, understanding the unique challenges they face regarding alcohol use becomes increasingly important. By promoting awareness of the risks and implementing guidelines for alcohol consumption, we can help mitigate the impact of AUD on older adults and improve their overall health and well-being. The patterns of alcohol use may also vary throughout a person’s life. For instance, adolescents who start drinking before the age of fourteen are more likely to develop a severe alcohol problem later in life.

It’s crucial to comprehend the impact of alcohol on individuals across different life stages when developing strategies for diagnosing, treating, and preventing alcohol abuse and related problems. If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, contact us today to receive a complimentary assessment and insurance verification.


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  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Fall Semester—A Time for Parents To Discuss the Risks of College Drinking. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from
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  6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Older Adults. Retrieved June 17, 2023, from’s,that%20may%20result%20from%20drinking.