Drug addiction in senior citizens is a significant and growing problem in the United States that few people are aware of. In fact, addiction that occurs later in life can be difficult to detect, and sometimes the person suffering from this disease might not even know that they are physically and emotionally dependent on a particular substance. Therefore, a policy of education about the dangers of addiction in older people is essential in order for those who are close to them to recognize any problem and know what options are available to get help. This is especially important considering that recent increases in the amount of older people entering drug rehab programs indicate this problem is probably far worse than we might think.
The primary way that seniors get addicted to drugs is as a result of chronic pain management. Even under strict medical supervision, addiction to pain medications can and does still occur. This is because these types of narcotics work the same for everyone: they initially manage pain well, then the body develops tolerance and more of the drug is required. With an increase in dosage and consistent use, tolerance increases and eventually leads to physical dependence. Physical dependence almost invariably leads to outright addiction at a mental and emotional level. Therefore, seniors who are taking pain medications regularly are at increased risk for addiction. And because these medications are prescribed by doctors, most people consider them harmless and don’t think that addiction will ever become an issue. However, once it sets in, addiction is a lifelong affliction that can cause serious health issues.
Another primary reason that older people become addicted to drugs or alcohol is as a result of lifestyle changes. These changes include the celebration of a life of toil and work, but can lead to some very bad habits. For instance, frequent dinners that include wine or beer can quickly become problematic. Before a person knows it, they’re having cocktails with lunch and dinner, and eventually Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s with breakfast.
As a result of inactivity after a lifetime of working, some seniors have difficulty sleeping. Medications designed to help people get to sleep are extremely addicting and can lead to significant problems with memory loss. Older people who are addicted to sleeping pills often engage in strange or erratic behavior while having no recollection of doing so. And because sleep aids can lead to a persistent state of confusion, it can be difficult for a person to understand that they have a problem.
Grief and depression is often a significant problem for senior citizens. As people get older their friends, family and associates age as well, and the loss of these people becomes a common occurrence. This combined with decreased levels of activity can lead to a state of depression that some people might seek to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Boredom and lack of exercise serve to exacerbate these problems.
If you have an older loved one with a drug or alcohol problem, their very life could depend on you. The following options are readily available:
Group and Family Therapy
Don’t wait a moment longer to take action; the earlier addiction or alcoholism is treated, the higher the likelihood of success.