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Doctors concerned as elderly addicts suffer in silence

There is growing concern among healthcare professionals world-wide about the large numbers of elderly people facing alcohol addiction.

Health professionals are concerned over the number of elderly people presenting with alcohol addiction. Source: 1 NEWS

Often called "invisible addicts", Wellington Hospital's Dr Paul Quigley says insufficent screening for addiction means those affected often go unnoticed.

"They're not out downtown, knees up, screaming and dancing, they're just quietly drinking in their own home," he told ONE News.

Dr Quigley says those with alcohol addictions have often developed them earlier in life, the worst affected group being those aged between 55 and 70.

"They're not old enough to go into residential care, they're too young. They should be able to cope on their own but they often don't."

There are also fears health services could come under pressure as large numbers of so called baby-boomers with alcohol addictions reach retirement age.

Kathryn Leafe, of addiction treatment clinic CareNZ, says treatment among elderly patients has increased recently.

"Over the last year we've seen an increase in older people presenting to our services - about 15 per cent of the 7000 people we work with," she says.