A Silent Crisis: Seniors and Substance Abuse
There are several reasons why this struggle has been ignored. Many older adults can feel reluctant about reaching out for professional help for addiction due a sense of shame. Overworked physicians with limited time may not notice substance abuse issues in older patients, and there is very little research data about this problem. In addition, senior adults’ addictions may easily remain hidden since the majority of older adults are able to live independently, are no longer working, have slower active social lives and drive less, making it more difficult for others to see their struggles.
Alcohol and drugs often have a stronger effect on older adults than younger individuals. Aging can create biological changes that can intensify the physical effects of substances. Addiction can even speed up the physiological aspect of aging, and can also increase the risk of illness and injury. The adverse effects of substances can also impair memory and attention in older adults more significantly than younger people.
In the United States, adults over the age of 65 consume approximately 33% of all prescription drugs. Since they often take more than one medication at a time, this increases the chances of making mistakes with dosages and risking drug interaction that could have negative side effects. Pain killers and sleeping pills to treat insomnia are commonly prescribed to older adults, and if they are used over long periods of time, they can potentially lead to addiction.
Life changes can also make seniors more susceptible to addiction. Many older adults feel isolated, and substances can numb their feelings and fill idle hours and feelings of emptiness due to the loss of a spouse.
- Up to 14 % of elderly emergency room admissions are due to alcohol or drug issues
- Almost 50 % of people in nursing homes have alcohol issues
- Elderly adults are hospitalized for alcohol problems as often as they are for heart attacks
- Widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcohol addiction in the United States
Reclaiming Your Health
Seeking professional help for your addiction is the key to healing. At Champion Center, we offer an age-specific treatment that will help you cope with depression, loss and loneliness and provide techniques to establish a social support network. For more information, contact us at 844-394-3767.