Swanswell calls for clear and consistent drinking advice

22 June 2011

Suggestions to drastically cut the recommended safe alcohol limits for older people could cause confusion among drinkers according to Swanswell.

Swanswell - a national charity which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use - is giving its reaction to a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which says people over 65 should drink a maximum of 1.5 units a day for men (currently 3-4 units) and around 1 unit for women (currently 2-3 units).

Older drinkers are less able to process alcohol and the report warns that drink could also interact with medication they may be taking, causing alcohol to have an increased affect.

However, Swanswell believes calls to have a different safe drinking limit for older people could cause confusion but agrees that GPs should screen everyone over the age of 65 for signs of substance misuse.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While we welcome this report highlighting what is often a hidden problem among older people, we’re concerned that having different safe drinking levels to everyone else will only confuse the matter.

‘We know how many older people prefer to drink in their own homes, often because of boredom or big changes in their lifestyle, and in many cases they do so moderately but on a daily basis, which they may have done for many years because they’re used to it.

‘However, they don’t recognise that this regular drinking can be as hazardous to health as excessive or binge drinking, making it more difficult for them to identify that they may have a problem.

‘Therefore it’s vital that clear advice and information is easily accessible at the places where they are likely to go such as a GP surgery, where the report suggests everyone over 65 should be screened for signs for alcohol misuse.

It increases the chance of a problem being identified earlier and getting help from organisations such as Swanswell to change and be happy.’  

However, the national charity knows that tackling substance misuse in the older generation will take time.

Debbie added: ‘Older people have grown up in a society where more and more people are drinking at home, alcohol is cheap and more accessible than it ever has been.

Therefore, we as a society, need to look at our own attitudes towards drinking because it can affect people for generations to come.’

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