Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Patricia Slattum


Introduction: Aging, comorbid conditions, and use of medications render older adults more susceptible to alcohol-disease or alcohol-drug interactions that may lead to harmful outcomes. In this dissertation project the risk profile of alcohol and medications use among older adults was investigated. Considering the rise in CNS-acting medication use and the adverse effect profile linked to CNS-acting medications, it was also of interest to find if older adults were at risk of falling due to interactions between alcohol and CNS-acting medication. Objectives: The objectives were as follows: 1) to determine the prevalence, pattern and factors associated with at-risk drinking, 2) to determine the prevalence and pattern of potential concurrent use of CNS-acting medication and alcohol, and to identify factors associated with alcohol use among CNS-acting medication users, 3) to assess the effects of potential concurrent use of CNS-acting medications and alcohol on the risk for falls in older adults. Methods: The study population comprised a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older adults aged 65 years or older. The 2009 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) data (n=7163) were employed to determine at-risk drinking based on the Comorbidity Alcohol Risk Evaluation Tool (CARET) and to assess the effects of potential concurrent use of CNS-acting medication and alcohol on the risk for falls. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2010 data (n=3220) were employed to determine potential concurrent use of alcohol and CNS-acting medications. The effect of combined use of alcohol and CNS-acting medications on risk of falls was assessed using logistic regression modeling and adjusting for confounders. Alcohol consumption was measured by the quantity-frequency method and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommended drinking limits were utilized in all analyses. Results: In the MCBS study, 5.6% of the older adults were identified as at-risk drinkers. Adults aged between 65-74 years, being male, non-married, former or current smoker, and having no comorbid conditions were factors associated with at-risk drinking. In the NHANES study, 8.9% reported potential concurrent use of alcohol and CNS-acting medication. Use of at least one CNS-acting medication and drinking excessive alcohol, or binge drinking, was significantly associated with odds of falling. Conclusion: Hazardous alcohol use is common among older adults. A substantial proportion of older adults may concomitantly consume alcohol and CNS-acting medications. Odds of falling are greater in the presence of high alcohol intake and CNS-acting medication use. It is important for health care professionals to warn patients against excessive alcohol consumption. Increasing awareness of this issue among older adults and caregivers may help prevent falls. Contributions from healthcare professionals in the form of screening for potentially harmful alcohol use, prescription monitoring, and initiating counseling may help to reduce older adults’ risk for falls or other adverse effects.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2013