Substance addiction isn’t limited to the young adult demographic. In fact, recent studies have revealed that almost 20% of senior citizens in the United States has some sort of substance abuse problem. A portion of these seniors may have used drugs recreationally throughout their life; others may have only recently started abusing drugs or alcohol during their golden years. In regards to the latter, seniors might have started abusing substances following a major life change, such as the death of a spouse or friend, retirement, or even medical issues. As is the case with young adults, treatments and rehab for seniors are specialized for their unique demographic.


The Addiction Treatment Process for Seniors

Senior drug and alcohol addiction treatments are comprised of more or less the same set of steps as any other rehab program. It starts with an evaluation, followed by medical detox, psychological treatment, and aftercare. However, while the steps themselves are similar to any standard form of substance abuse treatment, they way they are handled for seniors is strikingly different. Rehab for seniors is handled much more delicately and with a surplus of patience and understanding.



The is an extremely important step in the treatment of a senior citizen. Screening for addiction helps both the center’s medical team and mental health professionals determine the extent of the individual’s addiction. In rehab for seniors, a careful mental assessment is performed in addition to the standard screening. This helps to identify any mental health issues that might have influence over the individual senior’s addiction. For example, a senior with Alzheimer’s Disease might have fallen victim to pharmaceutical drug addiction simply because he accidentally took too much of his prescription, thinking he had not taken doses when he had.


Medical Detox

This is by far the hardest part of the recovery process. The dangers and discomfort that come with withdrawal can be too much for even young and otherwise healthy individuals to handle. This is why it’s especially important for seniors in recovery to detox under medical supervision. The treatment center’s medical team can help relieve the symptoms of withdrawal and administer emergency care if it ever becomes necessary.


Psychological Treatment

Psychological treatment helps the people at the center and the individual in recovery get to the root of the problem: uncovering the driving force behind the addiction. For seniors, individual therapy and group therapy have both proven to be efficient but gentle methods of addressing the reasons behind substance abuse. Other equally effective psychological treatments include family therapy and counseling. It all depends on the individual senior’s preference; some would rather face the issue of addiction themselves without involving family while others may feel that family support is necessary for their long-lasting recovery.



Aftercare is a critical step on the road to recovery— especially in rehab for seniors. After their completion of the previous steps in their tailored addiction treatment, seniors are encouraged to continue outpatient therapy. After all, some seniors in recovery may need help making the transition back to their everyday lives as sober individuals. Some aftercare methods that have been statistically successful among seniors include staying in a transitional living facility (a sober living program), receiving support from peers and other recovering seniors in group meetings (the 12-step method), and following through on doctor referrals to maintain sobriety at home.


Rehab for Seniors at Discovery Institute

Individuals in their golden years should be living in happiness and contentment. Seniors should be able to reflect on the successes and joys of their lives without having to worry about addiction taking control of their last years. If you suspect that a senior you care about is suffering from addiction, it’s in your best interest to get help as early as possible before the addiction can cause any long-lasting physical or psychological damage. At Discovery Institute, our team of medical and mental health professionals works hard to ensure that elderly individuals in recovery will be able to spend their time doing what they enjoy without substance dependency. If you or a loved one would like more information about rehab for seniors, please contact us at 888-616-7177.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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