Addiction affects individuals of all ages. It affects teens, adults, and senior citizens. No one is too old to develop an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, prescription medications, or other substances. Addiction in the elderly population is surprisingly, and increasingly, common.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration1 shares, “The combination of alcohol and medication misuse has been estimated to affect up to 19% of older Americans.”
Even more individuals use just one of these or other substances. It is never too late to find health, healing, and hope for the future. Identify addiction, and takes steps to get rehabilitation help.
Identifying Addiction in Older Adults
One of the greatest challenges in finding recovery is first identifying a substance abuse problem. Don’t wait for an elderly friend or relative to speak up about his or her struggles. Individuals often turn to substance abuse out of loneliness or isolation. They may feel they have no one to reach out to. They may not recognize a problem. Denial affects most drug users. It is even more powerful for older adults who may feel they “know better,” are too old for addiction, or aren’t “partying” and so simply can’t become addicted. If a loved one is using prescription or other drugs, look for signs of abuse. Be an early warning system. Takes steps to get help for someone who may not be able to help themselves.
U.S. News2 explains, “Family members and caregivers are often the first to notice addiction-related changes…Loved ones appear more anxious or depressed. They’re injuring themselves and are confused at times, even disoriented.”
Look for changes in mood or behavior. Look for signs of addiction in your elderly loved one. He or she is not too old to need help.
Why Do Seniors Get Addicted? Why Do They Need Help?
Seniors struggle with addiction for many of the same reasons younger people do. They also face age-specific challenges and easy access to addictive substances. NPR3 explains, “Over the past several decades, physicians have increasingly prescribed older patients medication to address chronic pain from arthritis, cancer, neurological diseases and other illnesses that become more common in later life. And sometimes those opioids hurt more than they help.” Opioids aren’t long-term solutions for pain management. However many seniors receive prescriptions — and continue to receive them.
NPR continues, “A recent study of Medicare recipients found that in 2011, about 15 percent were prescribed an opioid when they were discharged from the hospital; three months later, 42 percent were still taking the pain medicine.”
Seniors have easy access to powerful, addictive drugs. They may not be aware of the risks involved in using these substances. They may be aware of the risks but convinced addiction is a problem for younger individuals. Any substance use puts health in danger. This is even more true for senior citizens. Memory lapses, increased risks of falls, and strain on heart and other body systems become even more serious and dangerous for elderly users. Ending addiction is the best way to end the risks associated with substance use.
Help for the Elderly
If your loved one struggles with addiction, it is not too late. Find rehab for him or her. Treatment centers may offer senior-specific units or treatment teams. Many offer age-specific care and senior-specific programs. Michael’s House is one of these centers. We offer individual, customized treatment plans. We offer age-appropriate treatment and provide a safe haven for older individuals seeking recovery. Reach out to find help for yourself or the senior citizen in your life.
1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Specific Populations and Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse.” 27 Oct. 2015. Accessed 4 Aug. 2017.
2 Esposito, Laura. “Silent Epidemic: Seniors and Addiction.” U.S. News. 2 Dec. 2015. Accessed 4 Aug. 2017.
3 Gold, Jenny. “Opioids Can Derail the Lives of Older People, Too.” NPR. 20 Dec. 2016. Accessed 4 Aug. 2017.
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