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After a few drinks, older adults more impaired than they think
Date:3/5/2009

as well as changes in how alcohol is metabolized and removed from the body.

Nixon's group aimed to expand understanding of the effects over time of moderate levels of alcohol consumption in healthy, active older adults.

"You want to know how long does it take for them to become sober enough to engage in potentially dangerous activity such as driving," Sullivan said.

The study involved 68 nonsmokers one group aged 50 to 74 and a comparison group aged 25 to 35 who had at least one drink a month. Within each group, some individuals were given alcohol while others were given a placebo beverage that did not elevate their breath alcohol levels. The groups were carefully matched by gender, body mass index, history of alcohol consumption and other demographic characteristics.

When a person consumes alcohol, concentration in the blood builds to a peak, then dissipates. During the first phase of the metabolic process, alcohol has a stimulating effect. During the second phase, there is a sedative or depressive effect.

During each phase at 25 minutes and 75 minutes after alcohol consumption, respectively participants were given tests that required them to draw lines connecting numbered and lettered dots on a paper, in chronological order, without lifting the pen from the paper. They were timed and evaluated for how many errors they made. The first test involved numbers, while the second involved alternating between numbers and letters. Those tests give clues about a person's mental processing related to movement, and about the ability to mentally shift from one problem-solving strategy to another. The researchers also asked participants to rate on 10-point scales how intoxicated they felt, and how much they thought the alcohol impaired their performance.

Older adults who had alcohol took longer to complete the tasks than younger adults who had alcohol. But there was no such age difference between the older and younger
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Contact: Czerne M. Reid
czerne@ufl.edu
352-273-5814
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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