Older Adults Also Suffer from Substance Abuse — They Need Help, Too

substance abuse in older adultsWe hear about the opioid crisis almost daily in the U.S. Often times our focus remains on teens, parents, and the children of those suffering from addiction. We often forget about a highly vulnerable population also dealing with opioid and substance abuse: senior citizens.

Seniors, otherwise known as older adults, often suffer substance abuse in silence — and alone. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports adults over 65 make up over a third of outpatient spending on prescription drugs.

Also, NIDA says older adults are more likely to receive long-term prescription medications, and often receive multiple long-term prescriptions at once. This only increases their risk of addiction and overdose.

It isn’t just prescription drugs that pose problematic danger for senior citizens. According to the National Council On Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol abuse is also common — and dangerous — among the elderly.

Also according to NCADD, anywhere from 6 to 11 percent of hospitalizations in older adults are related to a drug or alcohol dependence problem. This population is hospitalized for alcohol-related circumstances as often as they are for heart attacks.

Millions of adults over the age of 65 suffer from substance abuse. Whether it’s because they’re lonely and depressed, dealing with the often disorienting aftermath of retirement, or they’re grieving over the loss of friends and loved ones, these members of the population need support just as much as younger people dealing with addiction do.

The signs of addiction in an older member of society may seem subtle and surprising, but they’re there. Slurred speech, frequent use of tranquilizers, memory loss and confusion, and relentless complains about health can all signal there’s a more serious problem that needs addressing.

The New York Times recommends doctors undergo more training to discuss substance dependency with their older patients. If you have a loved one who is a senior, and they’re dealing with substance abuse, encourage them to get help. Treatment programs are just as effective for older adults as they are for anyone else dealing with the same issues, regardless of their differences in stage of life.

Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.
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