Substance Abuse Among the Elderly Population

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Substance Abuse Among the Elderly Population

Substance abuse is more prevalent in the older generation today than it has ever been. In earlier years, substance abuse declined as individuals grew older. Today, the “Baby Boomer” generation continues drinking alcohol and abusing other substances as well. So, what is the reason for substance abuse among the elderly today?

 

Baby boomers are distinct compared with past generations as they came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, a period of changing attitudes toward and rates of drug and alcohol use.”

Reasons for Substance Abuse Among the Elderly

Many people in the elderly population have used alcohol or drugs since their early adulthood. However, some individuals are developing addictions to substances only now in their later years. What is the reason for this? Actually, there are many reasons for substance abuse among the elderly.

This group of individuals is facing many life circumstances which they have never dealt with before. The elderly population is facing retirement and a complete change to what they have known their entire lives. This can be a huge adjustment now that they have free time that they have always spent on careers and job obligations. All of this free time can lead to boredom and using substances to aleve these feelings of nothing to do. Not all retirees have saved money and can spend retirement traveling or enjoying other activities and hobbies.

Losing family members and friends can cause a major emotional toll on elderly individuals. The passing of lifelong friends and family members can be the source of depression and loneliness in these individuals. Of course, many of these elders will turn to alcohol or even drugs to cope with their situations. Not all of these people have children and grandchildren to fill this void in their lives. 

The Dangers of Substance Abuse Among the Elderly

Substance abuse among the elderly can be very dangerous physically as well as mentally.  As people age, their metabolism slows down. Their bodies cannot process substances as they did when they were younger. Many of these individuals are taking prescription medications which don’t combine with other drugs (legal or illegal) and could subsequently end in an overdose.

Other dangers of substance abuse among the elderly can lead to falls and broken bones resulting in hospitalization and rehabilitation facilities. Benzodiazepines (prescriptions known as Xanax and Valium among others) are prescribed frequently for elderly patients for insomnia or anxiety. Combining these drugs with alcohol or prescription pain relievers can be extremely dangerous. Many elderly patients don’t realize this.

Signs of Substance Abuse in the Elderly Population

Signs of substance abuse in the elderly are many times missed by physicians and others in the medical profession. They don’t really take the time to consider it when giving their normal physical checkups. Many of the symptoms of substance abuse are the same as those of normal aging in the older population. 

Some of the symptoms of substance abuse in the elderly can include:

  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Memory problems
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Depression and irritability

There are other symptoms family members or friends may notice.  If you do, please speak to your elderly loved one and see if you can persuade them to seek help. This is nothing to be ashamed of; it happens to many senior citizens.

Seek Help for Substance Abuse or Addiction

If you have an elderly loved one who you think may be struggling with abuse or addiction to any substance, contact A Forever Recovery. We have a team who can design a program to fit their individual needs. To learn more about our facility and our different treatment programs, contact one of our representatives today. They can answer any questions you may have. Make that call now.

 

Resource:

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Substance Abuse Among Older Adults

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