The elderly addicted are an increasing part of people seeking substance treatment today.
These days addiction doesn’t have an age or victim of choice.
Addiction is commonly believed to be a concern for teens or younger adults. Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t have an age or socioeconomic victim of choice. It crosses all ages, socioeconomic levels, gender and race. As it does so, older adults are commonly identified as being addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.
The reasons older and elderly adults become addicted are varied. Sometimes a lifetime routine of having a pre-dinner cocktail, will escalate into cocktails becoming dinner after the loss of a life partner and the need to self-medicate the grief and loneliness. About one out of four older adults treated for substance abuse report having depression; anxiety is also commonly reported.
Increasing pain due to a multitude of health issues that was alleviated with prescription pain meds, may begin to require more and more medication to get the desired result. If one doctor won’t prescribe what is needed, then doctor shopping begins in an effort to get enough medication to relieve the discomfort. Even while recognizing that they are taking more medication than they should, elders might strongly deny that they are addicted or don’t see their overuse as a problem. They are, after all, only taking prescription medication, they would never use street drugs.
But there are many senior citizens who do use illegal street drugs. Baby boomers who were young in the 1960’s, when illegal drugs were used frequently and became more acceptable by their peers, may have had decades of illicit drug use. Because they know how to access illegal drugs it is easy for them to continue or escalate their use.
Substance abuse concerns with older adults is exacerbated by their inability to process substances as effectively as they did when they were younger. Substances tend to remain in their system longer, or smaller amounts can cause more of an impact than expected. For example, someone who was able to have two or three drinks without having a major impact may find that a single drink causes intoxication. Also, the buzz that a younger person feels from a few drinks will pass within a few hours; whereas the high and confusion can last for days in an older adult resulting in injuries from falls especially for those who may have balance or mobility issues.
Janet was a guest at Gulf Breeze Recovery who had a very typical experience with alcohol and social drinking until, like with many others, it got out of control later in life. As it was mixed with prescribed medication Janet experienced side effects and eventually had to seek treatment. Like these unscripted testimonials demonstrate, there's hope for everyone, just like our graduate Janet tells us.
Elderly adults are especially prone to denial when it comes to addiction. That's why a non-12 step holistic approach makes better sense and is often more effective.
Denial of addiction is common at all ages, but even more so with older adults. Older adults often deny that they are using as much as they are, or that they experience negative results from their use. Family members sometimes are in denial too, excusing behaviors or actions as being a part of the aging process or believing that the substance use is justified in dealing with the issues of aging. Sometimes it can just be extremely difficult to have those needed conversations with a parent or other older family member.
The good news is that many times a honest respectful conversation can be effective with older adults. Identifying an appropriate treatment program that can provide medical assistance and work with older individuals is important and can be the beginning of them living a healthier more productive life.
Gulf Breeze Recovery has been working with guests of all ages, helping them recover health and teaching them important ways of maintaining long-term sobriety while working with family members on ways to support their loved one as they transition back to their home environment.
If you or someone you love is addicted check us out. We offer deluxe accommodations in a beautiful waterfront setting with a caring staff to make your stay comfortable as you regain your overall health.
Contact us at Gulf Breeze Recovery or call: (855) 433-4480 to speak to an addiction expert to learn more about our program that has helped so many people overcome their addiction and embrace life. We help people not just to survive, but to THRIVE®.
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