Alcohol, recreational drugs, over-the-counter, and prescription medications may cause a range of cognitive impairments from confusion to delirium, and may even mimic dementia. Moderate to high alcohol consumption is one of the often overlooked risk factors for development of dementia and cognitive impairment among older adults. Substances such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and anticholinergics pose a particular risk of cognitive impaiment and the risk increases when these are combined with multiple medications, as polypharmacy is common in patients over 65. A substance-induced dementia may have a better prognosis compared to other types of dementia, as once the instigating factor is gone, the cognition often improves.
Key words: Alcohol related dementia, geriatric substance abuse and dependence, polypharmacy, anticholinergic adverse effects, cognitive impairment.
Sleep complaints by older adults constitute a very common situation faced by health care providers. However, not all professionals respond to the complaint the same way. Some will briefly assess the complaint and resort rather quickly to medication while others will assess the complaint carefully in order to exclude the diagnosis of primary insomnia and prescribe alternative interventions to improve sleep. When medicine is prescribed, the type of compound often selected is benzodiazepine. However, benzodiazepine carries a significant risk of adverse reaction, including drug dependency, both of which are clinical problems that should not be underrated, especially when treating a subjective complaint and not a specific diagnosis.
Key words: insomnia, benzodiazepine, dependency, addiction, older adults.
The number of older adults who drink to excess is not known, partly because primary health practitioners seldom screen for this problem. The signs of alcohol abuse are vague prior to late-stage liver failure and many of them are attributed to normal aging. Two types of alcohol dependence are commonly seen in older adults: type I is a late-onset alcohol dependence in which depression, chronic illness, or life changes such as retirement precipitate drinking, while type II is mainly genetic and reflects lifelong drinking that has not been previously identified by health professionals. Pharmacologic agents such as naltrexone and acamprosate have been shown in a number of clinical trials to be useful in care. A great many others are still in testing phases. Nonpharmacologic management is also effective, especially when teamed with drug therapy. Some of these are cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and counselling that the primary care physician can do in the office, also known as the brief intervention approach. There is much that can be done if alcohol dependence is recognized.
Key words: alcohol, aging, older adults, dependence, liver disease.
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