Senior Citizens and Addiction

Many people fail to realize that addiction and substance abuse impact the lives of people of all ages. It’s easy to assume that addiction mainly develops in the lives of young or middle-aged individuals. But, senior adults also deal with substance dependence and abuse.

Did you know that drug and alcohol abuse in senior citizens is a growing epidemic in the United States? It’s common to underestimate the possibility of addiction in the lives of individuals who  65 or older. A lot of people believe that older individuals don’t tend to suffer from these problems.

This common misconception often prevents older adults from getting the help they need. But, regardless of your age or the age of a loved one, professional treatment can help to bring freedom from addiction. Drug rehab centers for elderly citizens can help with substance abuse issues. 

Here at Discovery Institute, we offer this kind of help and work to provide hope to all of our clients, whether they are young people or older individuals.

Identifying Some Possible Causes of Addiction in Older Adults

When it comes to dealing with substance abuse and addiction, it’s important to first understand that everyone is different. Those who suffer from addiction have various underlying causes in their lives. And each individual has a unique body and life story. This is why individualized treatment is so important.

A lot of things could come into play when it comes to elderly turning to substances. Anything from health-related issues to an emotional life event can lead to substance abuse. Sadly, this often leads to serious addiction.

Some of the common causes of addiction in older adults include the following:

  • Loss of spouse
  • Loss of an elderly parent
  • Financial problems
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Lack of purposefulness
  • Disagreements with family
  • Loss of close friends
  • Physical health problems
  • Development of mental illness

Many older individuals become sad and even develop depression as they age. This can be due to many different factors. Sometimes, aging adults see their friends and family members passing away and begin to consider their own mortality more seriously. This can be very overwhelming for some.

As people get older, they may struggle to find purpose in their everyday lives. Their children are old enough to care for themselves and may have families of their own. Older individuals may live alone or at a senior care facility. 

Some individuals begin to deal with various health issues as they get older. Many people may struggle with sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Others deal with physical ailments like arthritis. As a result of these physical health problems, people might begin to feel sad or downhearted.

Mental health disorders are also common among older individuals. Dementia, anxiety disorders, clinical depression, and eating disorders are often seen within the senior citizen population. 

Physical and mental health problems are often treated with prescription drugs. But, these substances can be addictive and lead people to become dependent on them. Older individuals who use these drugs regularly may begin to abuse them, using them more often than directed by their doctors, in order to relieve themselves from the stress of reality.

Sadly, this substance abuse often leads to addiction in the lives of senior adults. And, once this occurs, it can be extremely difficult for individuals to overcome their substance use habits.

Some of the Most Common Addictions for Elderly Individuals

A few of the commonly seen types of addiction within the senior community include:

  • Painkillers
  • Tranquilizers
  • Stimulants
  • Sedatives
  • Alcohol

Many of the sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives that are being used and abused by elderly adults are prescription medications given to them by medical professionals. These medications are prescribed to help people treat various illnesses and conditions.

Some of the drugs have euphoric effects while others bring calming effects to their users. These results may seem helpful to those who are using them. But, after continued use of these substances, individuals may become dependent on the way the drugs make them feel. 

In addition to prescription drug use, alcoholism is also common in senior adults. Sometimes, people become dependent on alcohol because of the way it affects their bodies and minds. People often drink in an attempt to escape from the stress and pressures of their lives. They find relief in alcohol, so they continue to drink when they feel that they need to “get away”.

Sadly, the occasional drink often leads to excessive drinking. Eventually, alcohol addictions develop and individuals struggle to control their drinking habits. Some may even find themselves using alcohol and drugs, consuming mixtures like benzodiazepines and alcohol, in order to feel the effects of these substances stronger and faster.

The Dangers of Senior Substance Abuse

Senior citizens abusing substances is especially dangerous. This is particularly because older adults are more susceptible to the life-threatening side effects of drug and alcohol abuse. 

People who are over the age of 65 generally have difficulty metabolizing drugs and alcohol. Some of the most dangerous substances for seniors are benzodiazepines. But, unfortunately, these drugs are very commonly prescribed despite the fact that they are highly addictive.

Challenges in Identifying Addiction in the Elderly

It’s often difficult to detect addiction in elderly adults. Most often, doctors account a decline of physical or mental to old age when, in reality, the individual is abusing substances and is experiencing the side effects.

In many cases, caretakers assume that the older adults in their care need more medication when they ask for it. But, the truth is that many people use prescription medications even when they don’t need them as a result of physical or mental dependence. 

It can be challenging to see the signs of substance abuse and addiction in the life of an older individual. But, here are some things that could indicate that there’s a problem:

  • “Doctor shopping”
  • Lack of self-care
  • Desire to be left alone
  • Loss of interest in certain activities
  • Isolation and distance from others
  • Memory problems (not related to illness)
  • Mood changes (depression, irritability, etc.)
  • Frequent talking about medication or alcohol
  • Fear of being without prescription medications
  • Defensiveness when confronted about drug use

Looking for Rehab for Elderly Loved Ones in NJ?

If you have a loved one who needs help with addiction recovery, contact the Discovery Institute today. Our mission is to provide you with treatment that gives you tools to achieve lifelong sobriety. 

So, if you need help or want to get help for someone you care about, please contact us today by calling (844) 433-1101.