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Drug and alcohol issues for older people

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Did you know?

Alcohol is the most common drug used by older people. Older people in Australia are less likely to binge drink, but are the most likely age groups to be daily drinkers. 

Why are older people more at risk from alcohol?

As people age they become more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. They will become more intoxicated and impaired at lower doses and be at greater risk of harmful physical effects and accidents, particularly falls. Harmful interactions between alcohol and multiple medications are of particular concern in older people. 

What are the dangers of mixing alcohol and medications?

Using alcohol at the same time as any other drug can be dangerous. This includes drinking alcohol while taking prescribed medications and over-the-counter medications, and with some herbal preparations. One drug can make the negative effects of the other even worse. Alcohol can also stop medicines from working properly. 

Using benzodiazepines (minor tranquilisers) at the same time as alcohol can be dangerous. Mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol can make it harder to think clearly, make it harder to properly control how you move or stop your breathing and cause death.

Can regular use of non-prescription medicines harm your health?

Non-prescription or 'over-the-counter' medicines are medications that are available to purchase off the shelf in supermarkets and pharmacies, such as aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen, and medications provided under pharmacist supervision, such as cold and flu medications.

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug may carry risks or cause unwanted side effects. 

Find out more about non-prescription medicines.

What is mobile drug testing?

Mobile drug testing detects drivers who have recently used three common illegal drugs: ecstasy, cannabis and speed (including ice). Mobile drug testing can be conducted at roadside operations along with random breath testing, or by NSW Police in vehicles patrolling the roads.

It is against the law to drive under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drug.

Need more info?

Learn more about drug and alcohol issues affecting older Australians at or visit your local public library.

Need help with a drug or alcohol issue?

You can call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) for support, information, advice, crisis counselling and referral to services in NSW.

Phone: 1800 422 599 

Freecall numbers are not free from mobile phones.