As you age, life doesn’t necessarily slow down; instead, it presents new challenges like retirement, health issues, and the loss of loved ones. Some individuals, in an attempt to cope with these challenges or to fill idle time, turn to drugs or alcohol, and before you know it, the habit has taken hold. Substance use among seniors is a growing problem, and the associated risks are huge.
Even before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a considerable number of older Americans were using alcohol and prescription drugs inappropriately. When you factor in things like being socially isolated and feeling afraid of the virus, substance use among seniors has now risen to levels we’ve never seen before.
So, if you’ve noticed changes in an older friend or family member’s behavior or health, it’s worth checking in on them. Some signs that it may be time to seek treatment include the following:
- Cognitive difficulties
- Altered sleep patterns
- Unexplained bruising
- Irritability, melancholy, and depressive tendencies
- Unexplained persistent pain
- Shifts in dietary behaviors
- Frequent desire for solitude
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Estrangement from loved ones
- Diminished enthusiasm for once-enjoyed activities
These signs aren’t always obvious, but catching addiction early and getting help can add years of healthy and happy living. It’s never too late.
What are the Risk Factors for Substance Use in Older Adults?
As you get older, you may face challenges that increase your risk of substance use. It’s important to understand these risks so you can make healthy choices and get help if needed.
Social Isolation and Loneliness
Living alone or feeling lonely and isolated can lead to boredom, depression, and anxiety in seniors. Many turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with these feelings. Make an effort to stay socially engaged by connecting with family and friends, joining a real club, volunteering, or participating in events at your place of worship or community center.
Chronic Pain or Medical Conditions
Seniors often experience painful medical issues or chronic illnesses that cause discomfort. Some may misuse prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications to manage pain, while others self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs. Talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for pain that don’t involve substances. Exercise, physical therapy, massage, and acupuncture are a few options.
Loss of Purpose or Meaning
Retirement or the loss of a spouse can remove purpose and meaning from life for some older adults. Without work or a life partner to care for, feelings of uselessness may arise. Abusing substances is an unhealthy way to fill the void and pass the time. Look for new hobbies, activities, or part-time work that provide fulfillment and meaning. Spending time with grandchildren or volunteering in your community are great ways to stay engaged.
The key is recognizing risks early and making positive lifestyle changes. You have so much life experience and wisdom to offer; don’t let substance use diminish your golden years. There are many resources to help seniors struggling with addiction. Reach out to local support groups, call a helpline, or talk to your doctor. You deserve to age happily and healthily.
Which is the Most Used Substance Among Seniors?
Learning about the substances most commonly used by seniors is important for addressing the specific issues they face. Among seniors, alcohol, prescription medications, and, to a lesser extent, illicit drugs are commonly used. It’s crucial to explore these patterns of substance use, considering the health effects and finding ways to prevent and help when needed. This exploration helps us understand the challenges seniors may encounter and emphasizes the need for customized support and healthcare efforts for this group.
The issue of alcohol addiction is on the rise among the elderly population. As you get into your golden years, drinking can become an easy way to cope with life changes. However, alcohol affects seniors differently and can exacerbate age-related health issues.
For those over 65, it’s crucial to be extra cautious with alcohol. An older adult’s body has a tougher time processing the alcohol, making the effects feel stronger and more intense. This heightened sensitivity also means that hangovers and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be more severe for seniors. Regular or excessive drinking over time can lead to severe health problems such as liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer. It’s important for seniors to be mindful of their alcohol intake to safeguard their health in the long run.
Prescription medications play a vital role in managing the health conditions of older adults. As individuals age, they commonly receive prescriptions to address various health issues. However, a notable concern arises with the misuse of these prescription drugs, particularly pain relievers, sedatives, and anti-anxiety medications.
Older adults may face challenges in appropriately managing their medications, leading to unintended consequences. It is crucial for healthcare providers and caregivers to monitor and educate older individuals on the proper use of prescription medications to ensure their well-being and prevent potential adverse effects associated with misuse.
Illicit drug use among seniors, though less common than alcohol or prescription medication misuse, remains a concern that warrants attention. Cannabis and, to a lesser extent, other illicit substances may be utilized by older individuals for various reasons. Factors such as chronic pain, social isolation, mental health issues, and increased accessibility contribute to this phenomenon.
How Does Addiction Affect Seniors and Older Adults?
The effects of addiction and substance use in older adults can be devastating. Their bodies undergo numerous changes as they age, making them more vulnerable to the negative effects of drugs and alcohol.
Chronic health conditions become more common as you get older, and mixing medications with drugs or alcohol can have dangerous interactions and side effects. Things like liver or kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or ulcers are all too common in seniors and exacerbated by substance use.
Increased Risk of Falls and Accidents
Impaired coordination, balance and cognition increase the chances of false injuries and motor vehicle accidents in older adults struggling with addiction. These kinds of traumatic events often lead to broken bones, head injuries, and even death.
Many seniors grapple with loneliness and isolation as family and friends pass away. Unfortunately, addiction only serves to worsen the fuel of detachment from others. Important relationships become strained, and the motivation or ability to engage in social activities diminishes.
Mental Health Issues
Substance use is frequently linked to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. Not only can addiction cause or worsen these issues, but seniors may then turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate and escalate psychological distress. It is a vicious and destructive cycle.
The good news is that treatment and support are available for seniors struggling with addiction. Comprehensive rehab programs tailored to older adults, counseling, medication mansgement and community services can all help break the cycle of substance use and help seniors regain their health, relationthips and independence. Recognizing the signs of addiction in older loved ones and helping them access appropriate care is one of the kindest things we can do.
What Treatments Are Available for Older Adults?
The treatment options for substance use in older adults are generally similar to those for other age groups, but they may need to be tailored to address the unique needs and considerations of seniors. Some common treatments include:
Supervised medical detoxification may be necessary to help older adults safely and comfortably withdraw from substances. This process should be closely monitored to manage withdrawal symptoms, especially considering any pre-existing health conditions.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, seniors may benefit from residential treatment in Portland,Oregon. Our residential treatment center for seniors is a comfortable environment and offers 24/7 care. Inpatient programs provide a structured and supportive environment, while outpatient programs allow individuals to receive treatment while maintaining their daily routines.
Our outpatient rehabilitation program in Portland may be a better option for seniors or older adults who have a milder case of substance use. Outpatient treatment such as our intensive outpatient program or partial hospitalization in Portland still provides intensive and comprehensive care to help become and stay sober. But these programs offer more independence.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT involves the use of medications, often in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to address substance use disorders. This approach can be particularly beneficial for older adults, considering the potential interactions with other medications they may be taking.
Counseling and Behavioral Therapies
Mental Health Treatment
We offer mental health treatment in Portland, Oregon, for a wide range of mental disorders that affect seniors. Anxiety and depression commonly co-occur with substance use disorders, so our rehab can help with dual diagnosis. In this program both disorders are treated concurrently, which is more effective.
Crestview Recovery also treats mental health challenges occuring on their own. This can be beneficial to seniors experiencing loneliness and depression.
Participating in support groups, such as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide a sense of community and understanding. Specialized groups for older adults may be available. In our addiction aftercare program for seniors,we help locate local groups and community resources that they can access after treatment. Being part of a sober community is a great idea for anyone in recovery, but is beneficial for older adults who may have turned to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate their loneliness.
We can help you find AA meetings in Portland, Oregon. There are also many sober activities to participate in.
Involving family members in the treatment process can offer valuable support and improve the overall success of recovery. Family therapy may be beneficial for addressing relationship dynamics and building a supportive environment. Our team at Crestview strongly encourages family therapy to heal trauma and help develop a strong support system around those in recovery.
Given the prevalence of co-occurring health conditions among older adults, integrated care models that address both addiction and other medical or mental health issues are essential. Collaboration between addiction specialists and other healthcare providers is crucial for comprehensive care.
Holistic interventions, such as mindfulness, yoga, and art therapy, can complement traditional treatments and contribute to overall well-being . Often holistic activities can be continued outside of rehab to maintain long-lasting sobriety.
It’s important for healthcare professionals to conduct a thorough assessment of the older adult’s physical and mental health, medications, and social support networks to tailor the treatment plan effectively. Additionally, ongoing support and follow-up care are crucial to prevent relapse and promote sustained recovery in older adults.
Why Should Adults 65+ Choose Crestview Recovery?
Taking steps towards recovery from addiction is brave at any age. For adults aged 65 and above, Crestview Recovery offers a special kind of support, addressing their unique needs through specialized care, experienced staff, personalized treatment plans, a safe environment, and a holistic approach.
We also include your family in the recovery process to ensure a more successful recovery. Family involvement can also help to make a smoother transition from rehab into outpatient treatment and then sober living.
Recognizing that each person’s journey is unique, Crestview develops an individualized treatment plan, all carefully chosen to suit the circumstances and goals of older adults. Crestview stands as a reliable partner in the journey towards healing and wellness in the golden years. Contact us now to discover more about our program and take the first step towards a brighter future.
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.