Aims: To explore alcohol use and concomitant use of prescription and over the counter (OTC) medicines in people aged 75 years or over.
Design: Community-based randomized survey of home-dwelling elderly persons, Setting: the City of Kuopio, Finland.
Participants: Population-based random sample of 700 persons aged 75 years or over, of whom 601 participated (86%). Only home-dwellers (n = 523) were included in this study.
Measurements: Alcohol use based on responses to questions concerning quantity and frequency, and CAGE questions. Use of prescription and non-prescription medicines. Mean corpuscular volume.
Results: Of the participants, 44% used alcohol. Most alcohol drinkers used medications on a regular basis (86.9%) or as needed (87.8%), among them medicines known to have some potential interactions with alcohol. Elevated mean corpuscular volume was more widespread among alcohol drinkers than non drinkers.
Conclusion: Theoretical risks posed by alcohol use are not minimal in the older elderly, though the quantity of alcohol use is not considerable. Physicians and nurses should pay attention to chronic diseases and medications when counselling aged people about alcohol consumption. The question of clinical importance of alcohol-medication interactions needs to be studied further.
Copyright 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.