Objectives: Medications and alcohol are both used commonly by older people. Thus, the potential for adverse drug-alcohol interactions is very high in this population, but data on actual concurrent use of alcohol and medicines likely to interact with alcohol are lacking. The objectives of this study were to determine the frequency of alcohol and medication use and the potential for specific adverse drug-alcohol interactions in residents of retirement communities.
Design: Cross-sectional study using a mailed survey.
Setting: Three retirement communities in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Participants: All 454 independently living residents of the communities were surveyed. Of these, 311 residents (68%) returned completed questionnaires. Mean age of respondents was 83 +/- 6 years, 100% were white, 77% were female.
Measurements: The questionnaire included alcohol use questions adapted from the Khavari questionnaire and the CAGE questionnaire to screen for alcohol abuse. Respondents were asked to list all prescription and nonprescription medications.
Results: Thirty-eight percent of the population reported using both alcohol and a high risk medication. Six percent had seven or more drinks per week and took a high risk medication. High risk drugs commonly used by drinkers were antihypertensives in 50%, aspirin in 27%, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in 20%, medication for congestive heart failure in 18%, antacids or H2 blockers in 16%, sedatives in 11%, narcotics in 5%, and warfarin in 5%.
Conclusions: Concurrent use of alcohol and medications is common in residents of these retirement communities. Many of the drugs taken by regular drinkers have potential for adverse drug-alcohol interactions even at moderate levels of alcohol use. This represents a strong possibility of adverse outcomes and a need for increased awareness on the part of both the public and physicians of the potential for interactions between drugs and alcohol.