Alcohol use is common in older adults and is associated with numerous health and social problems. Recent evidence suggests that in addition to level of alcohol consumption, drinking pattern may also be important. Moderate alcohol intake may confer some cardiac benefits, while heavy episodic drinking seems particularly problematic. Detecting alcohol misuse in older adults is difficult since clinical acumen is often poor, screening questionnaires have serious limitations and laboratory tests are not diagnostic. Brief alcohol interventions to reduce alcohol consumption appear useful in younger populations, but are less studied in older adults. While there is increasing research into the issue of alcohol use among older adults, clinicians and policy-makers must rely on limited evidence when making clinical decisions.
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