One of the least-discussed areas of drug abuse in the United States involves our oldest citizens. Drug abuse by the elderly has been steadily on the rise for decades, yet the mainstream media almost completely ignores the issue. But make no mistake, this is a growing problem. The combination of a larger-than-ever senior population in the United States with an increase in the use of prescription medication has created a situation that law enforcement, drug abuse rehab centers and families around the country will all have to deal with in the coming years.
What are the Links Between Drug Abuse and the Elderly?
There are a variety of reasons why elderly individuals become addicted to drugs -each varying according to the individual, their health as well as their relationship with their families. Among the most common reasons for senior citizen drug abuse are:
- Physical pain. Studies have found that a large percentage of those individuals over the age of 65 who abuse prescription medications do so in an attempt to cope with physical pain. This pain can be caused by anything from sore muscles to extended recovery periods following illness or major surgery and usually leads to Vicodin addiction, OxyContin addiction and other problems.
- Emotional Pain. Just like younger people, the elderly are inclined to abuse drugs as a means of escaping emotional pain. This is especially prevalent in situations where the individual is isolated, and does not receive enough love and support from family members.
- Confusion. One of the most frightening aspects of drug abuse in the elderly community is the fact that many individuals are abusing their prescribed medications without even knowing it. Confusion over dosage and side effects can inadvertently turn people into addicts.
Challenges Regarding Drug Abuse and the Elderly
There are several challenges unique to the elderly that present a special challenge for families and addiction treatment professionals. For one, older individuals carry a tremendous amount of pride along with them into treatment. Having lived their lives, raised a family and enjoyed their golden years, it will be very hard for these individuals to see themselves as “Drug Addicts.” This makes treatment a very delicate issue. Also, the health of many elderly individuals may be failing. This creates a multitude of problems for the treatment facility. There is an urgency to treatment, but at the same time, many drug withdrawal symptoms or other concerns related to rehab may be too much for the older body to take. Therefore, treatment professional must strike a balance between expedited treatment and gentle care.
What Families can do About Drug Abuse and the Elderly?
The greatest weapons against drug abuse in an elderly family member are love and attention. As a society, we tend to neglect our oldest citizens, and that is what leads to the problems listed above. By spending more time with our parents and grandparents, showing them the love and respect that they deserve, we will help avoid the isolation that leads to drug abuse.
Michael’s House is a residential drug rehabilitation facility that understands the unique needs of its elderly patients. At Michael’s House, every elderly individual is treated with the greatest care and respect during the rehab process. To help your elderly loved one with their substance abuse problem, contact Michael’s House at 760-548-4032 today.