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What is the Most Common Addiction in Older Adults?

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Written by Palm Coast Treatment Solutions April 29, 2024

What is the Most Common Addiction in Older Adults?

Many people begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol in their teens and early twenties, although this is usually a fleeting period. Unfortunately, some people develop addictions to these drugs as they age. The worst part is that as a person gets older, it has a greater effect on their health.

Addiction Among Elders: A Hidden Problem

Addiction is commonly associated with youth, but substance misuse is now becoming a significant concern among older folks. In reality, addiction rates are increasing among people over the age of 65. This may be a particularly severe issue since the elderly are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.

Here’s a closer look at addiction among the elderly.

Why it’s a concern: Older persons frequently have a diminished ability to metabolize medicines and alcohol, leaving them more susceptible to harmful side effects, even at lower dosages. Furthermore, certain drugs may interact with addictive substances, raising health hazards.

Types of Addiction: While alcohol misuse is an issue, the elderly are also vulnerable to prescription medication addiction, particularly opioids and benzodiazepines, which are frequently prescribed for pain and anxiety.

Causes of Addiction: There are several reasons why an aged person may succumb to addiction. These include chronic pain, loneliness, despair, and dealing with the death of a spouse or loved one.

Learn about the causes and risk factors of drug abuse in the elderly, as well as what you can do to help someone you care about. Substance misuse in older people might appear differently and have more serious consequences. At Palm Coast Treatment Solutions, we understand the value of a tailored addiction treatment approach.

Our evidence-based treatment programs take into account all of the aspects that will influence your recovery. Call (386) 284-4151 to learn more about how we tailor our therapy to older people with alcohol and drug use problems.

The Prevalence of Addiction in the Elderly

Contrary to common belief, addiction is not confined to the young. The elderly population is equally susceptible, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration predicting a two-fold increase in the number of older adults needing treatment for substance abuse by 2020.

The Most Common Addiction in Elderly People: Prescription Drugs

Prescription medicines are the most frequent kind of addiction among the elderly, rather than illegal drugs or alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people over 65 account for around 30% of all drugs administered in the United States.

Common Addiction in Elderly People Prescription Drugs

Why Prescription Drug Addiction?

There are several reasons why prescription drug addiction is prevalent among the elderly. Firstly, older adults are more likely to have chronic illnesses or multiple health issues, leading to multiple prescriptions. Secondly, the physiological changes that come with aging can affect how drugs are metabolized, leading to increased sensitivity or, in some cases, addiction.

The Impact of Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction can have severe consequences for elderly individuals. It can lead to a decline in overall health, the worsening of existing health conditions, and a decreased ability to function independently. Furthermore, it can lead to harmful drug interactions, especially when multiple medications are involved.

Addressing the Issue

Addressing prescription drug addiction in the elderly requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes regular monitoring of prescription drug use, educating patients and caregivers about the risks of misuse, and providing access to support and treatment services.

Understanding and addressing the most common addiction among elderly people is crucial for their well-being. By shedding light on the prevalence of prescription drug addiction, we can pave the way for better prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies, ultimately improving the quality of life for our elderly population.

While prescription drug addiction is the most common, it’s important to note that elderly individuals can also struggle with other forms of addiction, such as alcohol, gambling, or even internet addiction. Each of these addictions presents its unique challenges and requires a tailored approach to prevention and treatment.

Furthermore, the stigma associated with addiction sometimes discourages older people from getting treatment. As a result, raising awareness of addiction among the elderly and encouraging open, nonjudgmental discussions about it is critical.

Causes of Addiction in the Elderly

Various factors may lead to someone developing substance misuse later in life. These might be physical difficulties or life-altering experiences that have an emotional impact. These situations may trigger substance-abusing behavior, which can lead to a full-blown addiction.

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

  • Memory problems.
  • Sleeping habits
  • Unexplained bruises.
  • irritability, sadness, and depression.
  • unexplained chronic discomfort
  • Changes in dietary habits
  • Failing to bathe or maintain a clean
  • Losing contact with loved ones.
  • Lack of interest in regular activities

Symptoms of Addiction in the Elderly

Addiction may be a significant problem for people of all ages, but it is especially difficult to identify in the elderly. Here are some signs of addiction in the elderly to look out for:

Changes in behavior: Examples include falling more frequently, ignoring personal cleanliness, and retreating from social activities.

Changes in mental abilities: Changes in mental capacities may include memory issues, disorientation, trouble concentrating, or mood swings.

Changes in sleep patterns: This might involve sleeping more or less than normal, or having difficulty sleeping all night.

Unexplained physical symptoms: These might include headaches, dizziness, or persistent discomfort.

Financial problems: This might indicate that the individual is wasting money on drugs or alcohol.

Legal problems: This might indicate that the individual’s addiction is causing them to take risks.

If you are concerned that an older loved one is battling with addiction, you should talk to them about it. You can also speak with their doctor or therapist. They can recover with therapy.

Benefits of Addiction Treatment

Here are some of the benefits of addiction treatment:

Improved Physical Health: Addiction harms the body. Treatment can help people improve their overall health by promoting better sleep, diet, and medical treatment. This can result in more energy, a better immune system, and a healthy weight.

Enhanced Mental Well-being: Addiction often occurs with mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. Treatment can address the underlying causes, resulting in better mood, self-esteem, and clearer thinking.

Develop Healthy Habits: Addiction therapy provides individuals with techniques to handle triggers and cravings. They learn new coping techniques and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Supportive Environment: Treatment programs offer a safe and supportive environment for healing.  This might include therapy, group counseling, and connecting with people who are going through similar experiences.

Stronger Relationships: Addiction may cause strain in relationships with family and friends. Treatment can help repair trust and communication, resulting in stronger and better relationships.

Reduced Risk of Relapse:  The goal of addiction treatment programs is to avoid relapse.  To improve the odds of long-term recovery, identify triggers, develop coping skills, and establish a strong support system.

Palm Coast Treatment Solutions: Addressing Substance Abuse in the Elderly

Changes in mood, memory, and energy can occur in older persons, making it more difficult to identify substance usage.

Once an addiction has been identified, it is vital to seek out a treatment facility that specializes in working with seniors who are addicted.

Addressing Substance Abuse in the Elderly

You should seek programs that specialize in this form of addiction and also provide case management services, as people over the age of 65 sometimes lack the social support they need throughout recovery. These case management services will give the elderly access to medical, psychological, and social resources, allowing them to maintain a healthy lifestyle even after treatment.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) consensus panel, the following are suggested as appropriate treatment techniques for older persons seeking drug misuse therapy:

If you see changes in a senior you care about, call Palm Coast Treatment Solutions at (386) 284-4151 for help detecting and treating substance misuse in the elderly.

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