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Signs of Substance Abuse in Older Adults

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Written by Zach Miller, March 25, 2024

Signs of Substance Abuse in Older Adults

Many people begin using drugs or alcohol in their teens and early 20, although this is usually a passing phase. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to these medications as they age. The worst part is that as a person grows older, the impact on his health becomes greater. Learn about the causes and risk factors for drug abuse in the elderly, as well as what you can do to help the person you care about.

Substance abuse in older individuals may manifest differently and with more serious consequences. At Orlando Treatment Solutions, we understand the value of a tailored addiction treatment approach. Our evidence-based treatment programs take into account all aspects that will impact your recovery.

Call us now at (321) 415-3213 to learn more about how we tailor our therapy to older individuals with drug use problems.

How Serious is Substance Abuse in Older Adults?

According to the National Institutes of Health, substance abuse has disproportionately increased among older individuals, defined as people 65 years of age and older. Compared to prior decades, many more individuals in this age group have been accepted into alcohol and prescription drug rehabilitation programs.

Signs Of Substance Abuse In Older Adults

This trend is particularly troubling because drug addiction can be more dangerous for older individuals than for younger people. What is considered moderate drinking or casual drug use for a young person can be especially dangerous for people 60 or older. Chronic health problems that affect people as they reach their golden years can impair their immune systems and reduce their body’s ability to withstand harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol.

Older Adults and Addiction

According to the latest data from SAMHSA’s NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health).

The age group above 65 years of age accounts for 5.1% of the total alcohol use problems.

People over the age of 65 account for 1.5% of all drug use problems.

Although researchers still don’t know much about how alcohol and drugs affect the aging brain, studies show that seniors absorb substances more slowly. Similarly, the elderly feel the effects of brain medications more strongly.

According to some studies, cocaine usage in adolescents may raise the risk of unfavorable consequences later in life. This is linked to a reduction in gray matter in the brain.

According to SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration), older people are more likely to encounter the following:

  • Lung problems
  • Heart problems
  • Memory issues
  • Mood Disorders

Consuming alcohol or drugs can aggravate all of these issues, exacerbating the negative health effects.

Additionally, some intoxicants cause slower reaction times, less coordination, and poor judgment. Accidents such as falls and car accidents pose a greater threat to the health of the elderly than those of younger individuals. The recovery period is often longer for older individuals.

What Causes Substance Abuse in the Elderly?

To address the incidence of drug addiction in older individuals, it is important to understand what motivates them to use substances in the first place. Young people’s motives for using drugs or alcohol differ from those of older individuals, although there are some similarities. Some of the most common reasons an older or elderly person may abuse drugs or alcohol include:

What Causes Substance Abuse in the Elderly

More likely to be given prescription medications for pain management. As you age, you may be more vulnerable to accidents or procedures that require opioid painkillers. These are highly addictive, and many older individuals become dependent on their prescribed medication.

Prescriptions for mental health problems are more commonly used by the elderly. They may be given benzodiazepines or sedatives, both of which are highly addictive.

Increased risk of drug interactions – Older people are more likely to need medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes. If they are also given prescription pain relievers, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications, they may develop serious drug interactions.

Because people become more sensitive to the effects of drugs or alcohol as they age, they may be unaware of their susceptibility to substance abuse and addiction. If they consumed these substances when they were young, they may believe that they can continue consuming the same amounts as before.

However, their systems are no longer able to handle and metabolize these chemicals as efficiently as they did in their youth. As a result, drug abuse in older people must be promptly controlled to avoid addiction and potentially fatal consequences.

Orlando Treatment Solutions: Treatment for Substance Abuse in Older Adults

Aging individuals may experience changes in mood, memory, and vitality, making it more difficult to identify drug addiction in the elderly. If you notice changes in a senior you care about, contact Orlando Treatment Solutions at (321) 415-3213 for help diagnosing and treating substance abuse in older adults.

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