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Int Psychogeriatr. 1990 Spring;2(1):55-72.

Aging and alcohol use disorders: diagnostic issues in the elderly.

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  • 1Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland.


Alcohol use and use disorders in older people tend to be hidden and ignored by clinicians and scholars. Resulting misinformation about elderly alcohol problems can be found in such fundamental works as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, revised. Yet, an extensive literature about the nature of geriatric alcohol problems has developed recently. This article reviews that literature, comments on current research at several North American centers, and offers some new information from the author's study of more than 300 older male alcoholics. Many findings remain to be replicated and further verified. Nonetheless, several coherent strands of information seem to be well substantiated: (a) problem drinking in the elderly constitutes a public health problem of moderate proportion, especially in men; (b) most signs predict increasing problem drinking in coming generations of elderly women and men; (c) many cases of geriatric alcoholism have late onset; (d) many geriatric cases are not properly identified; and (e) present screening and diagnostic methods for alcohol use disorders lack adequate validation for older persons.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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