Substance Abuse in Elderly Population: A Rising Threat

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You know an elderly person who has balance issues and has trouble remembering things. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? You think that it is to be expected because of the older age or you might believe it to be Alzheimer’s but have you ever considered that it can be a case of substance abuse.

Most Americans believe that alcohol and drug abuse is primarily a problem that affects teenagers and young adults. Substance misuse among individuals aged 65 and older, on the other hand, is one of the fastest rising health issues in the United States.

Alcohol and drug abuse affect as many as 17 percent of older individuals, according to recent research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The situation is anticipated to worsen as the senior population in the United States grows dramatically over the next 20 years.

That is why in this blog post we are going to discuss the causes of addiction and what steps to be taken to prevent it. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Addiction in the Elderly: What are the Causes?

There are a number of factors that might lead to someone developing a drug addiction problem later in life. These difficulties might be health-related or life-changing occurrences that have an emotional impact. These occurrences may trigger substance-abusing behavior, which can lead to a full-fledged addiction.

The following are some potential triggers or causes of drug or alcohol addiction in the elderly:

  • Retirement can be overwhelming for adults.
  • Loss of income or financial pressure due to the death of a family member, spouse, pet, or close acquaintance.
  • Relocation or placement in a nursing home.
  • Loss of purpose in life.
  • Family problems can kill their happiness.
  • Sleeping problems
  • Deterioration of mental or physical health (depression, memory loss, major surgeries, etc.)

Apart from these, they use alcohol or drugs to cope with unpleasant feelings typical in older individuals, such as loneliness, isolation, boredom, fear, and worry, or to alleviate the many physical ailments that increase with age.

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Symptoms of Substance Abuse in Older Adults

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to detect substance addiction in older adults is because the symptoms of substance abuse are almost the same as the side effects of aging. You should watch for a significant shift in their conduct in addition to particular actions.

The following are the symptoms of substance addiction in the elderly:

  • One of the most prevalent methods for elderly folks to feed their drug addiction is by lying to physicians about missing vital prescriptions. Be wary if you start hearing stories of people losing medicines and picking up extra at the pharmacy.
  • A sudden and unexplained change in mood should be investigated further. While there may be a valid cause, it might also be a symptom of a well-masked drug or alcohol addiction.
  • It may appear innocent but if your elderly relative drifts off in conversation, consider whether they are under the influence.
  • If your loved ones’ sleeping patterns suddenly alter, and they aren’t unwell, it might be a symptom of a drug dependency.
  • When going through their medication cabinet, you’ll discover that two or more doctors are filling the same prescription.
  • While memory loss and confusion are common as people become older, they can also be indications of someone who is under the influence of substance abuse.

The smell of alcohol, lying about simple things, withdrawal from people, messy house, and disheveled appearance are some common symptoms of addiction.

What Can Be Done?

If an intervention is required to begin treatment, addiction experts recommend that just one or two families or friends, as well as a health care practitioner, participate, because too many individuals may overwhelm or confuse an older person.

Drug and alcohol rehab facilities offer programs that help people struggling with addiction issues later in life. Here is what you should do to assist older adults in these programs:

  • The goal of group therapy should be to create or rebuild self-esteem, and it should be age-specific, supportive, and non-confrontational.
  • Focus on re-establishing the person’s social support system.
  • Provide support, so that they can cope up with depression, loneliness, and loss (e.g., a spouse’s death, retirement).
  • Ascertain if the treatment’s speed and content are acceptable for an elderly individual.
  • Professionals who are interested in and have expertise in dealing with older individuals should be in charge of the treatment.

The frightening rate at which older people acquire addictions to various drugs is cause for concern, and it is something that medical professionals, caregivers, and family members should not overlook. So, if you know someone who is struggling with similar problems, it’s time you help them find a suitable treatment program.

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