Substance Abuse Growing Among The Elderly

With more people living longer, many are abusing drugs and alcohol in their later years. This may come as a shock to some, but it is true. A recent census survey revealed that 17 percent of adults, 60 years and older are affected by substance abuse. This includes the abuse of prescription drugs as well. In fact, by the year 2020, the number of elderly adults struggling with substance abuse is believed to double.

Why The Increase In Elderly Abuse

Among this age group is the demographic known as the Baby Boomers. This generation was exposed to an explosion of drugs as young adults and may have a different view of drug use than others. Many find it acceptable to smoke pot and get high. Recent studies have shown that there is an increased risk of people having problems with drug abuse later in life if they used drugs in their teens and early 20’s. Another issue is the absence of drug education directed towards this age group, as most campaigns are targeted toward a younger crowd. Records show that the number of people between the ages of 51 and 60 admitted into state-funded drug treatment centers in Florida has gone up by 37 percent since 2001.

Illicit drugs aren’t the only problem though. Along with age can come ailments such as arthritis, as well as other aches and pains, which are treated with prescription, pain medications more often than not. This poses another problem with the potential for misusing prescription drugs and developing a dependency to these substances. There has also been a change in attitude toward drug addiction and treatment. There seems to be less shame and guilt concerning substance abuse now.

Alcohol can also become a major problem with elderly adults because with age, their sensitivity to alcohol increases as their tolerance decreases. Intoxication can result more easily because alcohol takes longer to metabolize in older persons. Substance abuse is more common among those who have experienced losses such as retirement, loss of health and death of loved ones. Women are also more likely to be widowed or divorced and to suffer from depression and so are prescribed psychoactive medications, which may increase the adverse affects alcohol.

The Solution To The Elderly Drug Epidemic

We shouldn’t just assume that because they are older they are wiser. Maybe they aren’t aware of the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol. In this case, some much-needed information should be shared with them of the health risks involved with addiction. If you believe that an elderly loved one may be suffering with a substance abuse addiction, don’t be afraid to offer them help.

Many family members may avoid confronting an elder with the concern that they will offend or upset them or even get written out of the will, but this shouldn’t be a stop for trying to save a life. People of every age can benefit from substance abuse treatment and this should be taken advantage of.

Drug rehab organizations have found that often elderly drug abuse is something that is not even considered. The fact is that the elderly are just as much, if not more, at risk for abuse than any other age group. This is especially true with the recent prescription epidemic.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of elderly drug abuse and make sure that if an elderly person has an issue that they get the help they need before it is too late.

For more information on drug rehab for this problem contact us today.


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