Potential for alcohol and prescription drug interactions in older people

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Nov;53(11):1930-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.00474.x.


Objectives: To examine the patterns and prevalence of concomitant alcohol and alcohol-interactive (AI) drug use in older people.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of survey and prescription claims data.

Setting: The Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PA-PACE) program, a state-funded program providing prescription benefits to older people with low to moderate incomes.

Participants: A total of 83,321 PA-PACE cardholders (age range 65-106) who were using any prescription medications at the time of survey completion.

Measurements: All AI drugs were identified using a database of medication warning labels obtained from First DataBank. Prescription drug claims were used to characterize AI drug exposure according to therapeutic class of prescription drug use. A mail survey of PA-PACE cardholders was used to examine alcohol use, as well as sociodemographic and health factors associated with concomitant use of alcohol and AI drugs.

Results: Seventy-seven percent of all prescription drug users were exposed to AI medications, with significant variation in exposure and concomitant alcohol use according to therapeutic class. Overall, 19% of AI drug users reported concomitant alcohol use, compared with 26% of non-AI drug users (P<.001). Multinomial logistic regression analyses showed that certain groups of older people, including younger older people, men, and those with higher educational levels, were at greater risk for concomitant exposure to alcohol and AI drugs.

Conclusion: Many older people use alcohol in combination with AI prescription drugs. Clinicians should warn every patient who is prescribed an AI drug about alcohol-drug interactions, especially those at high risk for concomitant exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Pharmaceutical Services
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Pennsylvania
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • State Health Plans
  • United States


  • Ethanol