When it comes to alcohol and drug addiction, senior citizens are sometimes overlooked. However, substance abuse is a rapidly-growing health problem in the elderly community. If you are over the age of 65 or care for an elderly loved one, it is important to know the risks that come with using and abusing drugs as an older adult so you can prevent serious health effects.
Why Senior Citizens May Abuse Drugs
Unfortunately, it is very easy for senior citizens to become addicted to substances. Their tolerance is much lower than someone who is younger so they will feel the effects more quickly and easily. Also, seniors take more prescription drugs than any other age group. They usually take several medications to manage conditions or illnesses. Some of these prescriptions are very addictive, especially when combined with other medicines.
Senior citizens may also use and abuse drugs due to the stress and anxiety that naturally comes from changes that occur later in life. These changes may include being laid off, going into retirement, loneliness, having sleep problems, losing friends and loved ones, family conflicts, relocating or moving into a home, physical health declines, and financial issues.
Some elderly individuals are more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than others. Senior citizens who are white, live alone, have lost their spouse, deal with chronic pain or a disability, or have a history of substance abuse are at a higher risk for addiction.
Signs & Symptoms of Addiction in Seniors
It may be hard to tell when a senior citizen has a substance abuse problem because elderly individuals usually have to take a lot of medications to keep their health in order anyway. However, elderly individuals are more susceptible to certain symptoms that might make a substance abuse disorder more recognizable. These side effects may include:
- Needing more medicine than they used to
- Having less contact with family and friends
- Getting unexplained injuries or bruises
- Memory loss or confusion
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Sleep problems & changes
- Irritability and sadness
- Changes in eating habits
- Anxiety or depression
- Having mood swings
- Poor hygiene
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, you are encouraged to contact a doctor as soon as possible. Substance abuse disorders that go untreated, especially in senior citizens, can have some serious physical and mental health effects.
The Dangers of Addiction for the Elderly
As people get older, the side effects of substances are much stronger and stick around for longer. Their bodies can not process drugs and alcohol in the same way that they might have been able to in the past. This may lead to outcomes like falls, accidents, or overdoses. Certain drugs and alcohol may even make certain physical conditions worse for elderly individuals.
Treating & Preventing Substance Abuse in Senior Citizens
If you are 65 or older, make sure your doctor knows about all medications that you are taking. They will let you know if any of the prescriptions are addictive or could be potentially harmful. You should also consult your doctor if you think you may have a substance abuse problem. They will conduct an assessment to achieve a diagnosis and will help you find the appropriate treatment for your disorder. Treatment will usually involve one-on-one therapy, group therapy, support groups, medication, case management, and more.
While recovery may seem daunting at an older age, it is very possible and can help improve your overall well being. In fact, substance abuse treatment usually works better for older people than it does for younger ones. If you have any questions abuse addiction treatment for senior citizens, contact our team of substance abuse specialists by giving us a call at ______________ or visiting us at ________________________________________ today.