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Elderly Addiction Treatment

Substance Abuse Doubles for the Elderly: Causes, Effects, and Treatment

Prevalence of substance abuse in the elderly

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Victims of addiction are often characterized or stereotyped as young 20-somethings with no lives or as overworked, overstressed, successful, middle-aged business men and women. It comes as a great surprise to many that one of the most prevalent age groups affected by addiction is the elderly.

Here are some facts that may further surprise you about the elderly and substance abuse:

  • The highest use of opioids are among the elderly generation: and about 60% of opioid users take other medications that are dangerous and life-threatening when combined with opioids
  • Alcoholism affects almost 3 million Americans over the age of 55, and it is expected to double within the next 10 years
  • The number of adults 50 and older involved in substance abuse has already doubled from 2002 – 2013 and continues to increase
  • The NIAAA (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) reported that although the elderly age group only accounts for about 12% of the American population, it accounts for 25%-30% of our consumption of prescription drugs
  • Even in nursing homes, 40% of the elderly are considered to belong in the category of alcohol abusers

Effects of Aging-Related to Substance Abuse

When an elderly person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they come to find symptoms and effects that are slightly different from the younger segments involved in addiction. Some of the most common differences are listed below.

  • The bodies and minds of the elderly are not as capable of handling the physical and mental deterioration caused by addiction and as a result, are more prone to health issues.
  • Because of the decrease in enzymes and the decrease in water composure your body experiences as it ages, the elderly body’s tolerance levels also decrease causing alcohol and drugs to have a higher impact.
  • Anyone suffering from addiction and substance abuse is likely to fall, trip or hurt themselves, but elderly people are much more likely to suffer severe injuries from these accidents and put themselves at extreme risk.

Reasons Elderly Engage in Addiction

reasons-elderly-engage-addictionThere are two main categories of elderly substance abusers: those that have been addicts or users their whole lives and those who have picked up the addiction in their later years.

Though many may have assumed differently, retirement is not the only factor related to new drug use and addiction within the elderly community. Many elderly addicts have not been lifelong users and often start their addictions because of new life challenges such as:

  • The loss of people around them who have died because of their age
  • The loss of a spouse or lifetime friend
  • A move into a new environment due to the inability to care for themselves
  • Body aches and pains that require pain medication
  • Boredom and depression caused by living alone or not having a job, children or immediate family nearby

For these people, their addiction may be embarrassing to them because they have never used before and they often keep their addictions very hidden, making it extremely difficult but nevertheless necessary for intervention and outside help.

Lastly for the addict that has been using their whole lives, it may be difficult for them to find the motivation for a new lifestyle after spending so much of their life with substance abuse. But after finding that their tolerance levels have been subdued and that their health seems to be dramatically destabilizing, it may raise some new concerns for an elderly person who has always struggled with addiction.

Common Signs of Addiction

It is very common for an elderly person to hide their addiction and avoid asking for help. The following is a list of common symptoms or side effects that may indicate that an elderly person has been addicted to alcohol or drugs and may be in need of your help.

  • Unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Unusual difficulty with focus or memory
  • Newfound lack of personal hygiene
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Growing lack of social interaction
  • Sudden loss of money and inability to deal with regular finances

Getting Help

When an addiction is uncovered, it may be useful to explain the dangers of substance abuse and recommend a support group or therapy for the addicted individual.

At Sprout Health Florida we work hard to conquer the underlying cause of the addiction as well as the addiction itself. We know that every person’s situation is unique to the individual and that the treatment must also be specialized. That is why Sprout Health Florida’s patients undergo a series of assessments and therapy sessions, ensuring that whatever is ultimately ailing the individual is addressed and handled respectfully and confidentially. We believe in finding healthier ways of coping with difficult life challenges and physical and mental ailments.


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Call 866-873-3148 for a FREE confidential assessment.

After completing the assessment, Sprout Health Florida offers several different types of therapies to provide treatment for behavioral and mental tendencies of those who struggle with addiction. These therapies address all areas necessary to the path of recovery.