Today, one out of every eight people with a substance abuse problem is over the age of 50, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. The council predicts the number of people over the age of 50 in need of help for a drug or alcohol problem will double by the year 2020. One of the biggest reasons behind this increase in senior substance abuse is that 78 million “baby boomers” are heading into retirement age.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse in Seniors
Every person is different but substance abuse may cause some common signs and symptoms in people over the age of 50, including:
- Sleep problems
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Chronic health problems
- Frequent accidents or falls
- Unsteady gait
- Unexplained bruises and injuries
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Decrease in social activity
- Neglect of appearance or hygiene
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slurred speech
- Increased stress
The signs and symptoms of substance abuse among seniors may appear similar to problems or diseases normally associated with aging. Because it is so easy to confuse signs of substance abuse with aging, many cases of drug or alcohol abuse in seniors goes unnoticed and untreated.
You cannot ignore some clear warning signs that an older person is abusing drugs, such as:
- Finding illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia in the possession of an older person
- Is often clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Complaining that a doctor refuses to prescribe the individual’s preferred drug
- Using illegal drugs or bumping up the dosage of prescribed drugs, often using the excuse that the prescription drugs just do not work
- The intentional misuse of drugs in an effort to cause self harm
- Combining medications or consuming alcohol with medications despite the potential harm
- “Doctor shopping,” or seeing several doctors in an attempt to gain many written prescriptions for the drug of choice
- Not disclosing prescription or illegal drug use to a physician
Seniors abuse drugs and alcohol for the same reasons as people of any age. Someone might take illicit drugs or misuse prescription drugs for recreational purposes or as a way to cope with grief, anxiety, depression and pain. Certain risk factors increase the likelihood that a senior will abuse drugs or alcohol, such as living alone, a personal or family history of substance abuse or mental health issues, chronic pain and even boredom. A handful of seniors feel they “deserve some fun” after leading long and often stressful lives. Many are resistant to treatment, fearing they are too old for detoxification or that they will live in pain.
Some seniors have abused alcohol and drugs all their lives while others start engaging in substance abuse near the end of their lives. Fortunately, it is never too late to quit.
Senior Addiction Treatment Program
If you or someone you know is over the age of 50 and has a substance abuse problem, contact the Waismann Method ® Rapid Opiate Detox Center location. Our trained professionals can help you or your older loved one through the difficult withdrawal process from drug addiction and dependence.