Elderly Drug Abuse a Rising Problem

In our narrow view of drug addicts, many of us probably picture an individual in their 20s or 30s, perpetually high and living a completely irresponsible life. There are many more people in our country that come from a different walk of life, however, that also need help for substance abuse.

Statistics of Baby Boom Drug Abuse

Older adults are at risk for substance abuse, and new data show that drug abuse among the elderly is increasing. We’ve been predicting it for years now in our country; baby boomers are part of a generation that, as they get older, continue to be at risk for substance abuse. “The baby boom population has some experience with substance misuse and is more comfortable with these substances,” said Dr. Westley Clark, director of SAMHSA’s center on substance abuse treatment. (1) Between 1992 and 2008, treatment admissions for those 50 and older more than doubled in the U.S.. That number will continue to grow, experts say, as the massive baby boom generation ages. (1)

Reasons for Substance Abuse Among Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are familiar with substance abuse, and many have carried the substance abuse of their youth into old age. But there are other reasons why we see substance abuse among the elderly. As a person gets older and retires, they tend to have more time on their hands and they have less responsibilities. Retirement can be a very lonely time and some people turn to substance abuse to fill the void in their life. Other seniors experience such unrelenting pain that they try to self-medicate it away.

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Treatment for Substance Abuse Among the Elderly

The statistics that researchers have come up with of elderly individuals in treatment may not paint an accurate picture of the problem as it stands today. This is because many elderly people are resistant to entering treatment or getting help for substance abuse. They may be too ashamed to admit to a problem or to seek help on their own. Some families have to use interventions to get their older loved one into treatment.

The good news, however, is that once in treatment, older adults are more successful at getting and staying sober. Some seniors feel this will be their last chance to get it right, and they aren’t going to let themselves fail. Others are motivated by their children or grandchildren and by the desire to create a positive legacy for their family.

Most seniors benefit the most from a treatment program that is geared toward older adults. They have different needs, different issues, and different ways of recovering than younger individuals. Like all of us, older adults relate better to others similar to them, and support groups and therapy sessions are often more beneficial when they are with other seniors.

Seniors also have more pressing health issues than most younger people, and staff should be specialized to deal with the medical issues of older adults. There are several high-quality treatment programs for seniors that allow them to recover in a peaceful, quiet setting, while their specific needs are addressed.

Sources

(1) The Impact of Substance Use and Abuse by the Elderly

Trends in prescription drug abuse

Seniors seeking drug, alcohol treatment doubles

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