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Older Adults National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA

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The training, education, and experience of our addiction specialists ensure older adults with substance use disorders are always getting the highest level of care available. Once a problem with drugs or alcohol has been identified there are a number of treatment options available. Some patients may benefit from less invasive outpatient treatment programs, whereas some will require medically assisted treatment to detox and inpatient rehab to effectively begin recovery. Some may also require specialist treatment for ongoing medical conditions that can be exacerbated by recovery (from severe withdrawal symptoms, for example) and others may have co-occurring mental health conditions that also need treatment. According to Harvard University, older adults metabolize alcohol more slowly than younger people.

risk factors for substance abuse in older adults

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery. Many assume that young people are the primary source of problem drug and alcohol use, however, there are a large number of senior citizens and older people who abuse substances regularly, some even to the point of forming an addiction. There are many reasons why an older person may turn to drugs and alcohol; children grow up and leave, friends become fewer, loneliness and boredom, helping to alleviate pain and bad health, and coping with losing a loved one of many years. On top of this, some people may have a problem with drugs and alcohol for many years, and if it goes untreated it can continue well into elderly life.

Mental health of older adults

However, older adults still experience certain risk factors that can increase their chances of substance misuse. In older adults, noticing addiction can become especially difficult, as some symptoms of drug abuse may mimic common signs of aging. Detecting the signs of drug abuse can become difficult, as people with addictions often hide their substance use from loved ones. Although drug addiction impacts people of all ages, few people consider the impact of substance abuse on older adults.

  • Seniors engage in fewer activities regardless of whether substance use is present or not, making it difficult to establish if this criterion is met.
  • Once a problem with drugs or alcohol has been identified there are a number of treatment options available.
  • The right type of care depends on the person, their needs, and the substances they have used.
  • Recovery is possible and there are many safe and effective treatment options, some of which involve medication.
  • These types of therapy may mitigate the loneliness that older adults often experience.

Rapidly growing numbers of older adults will need substance misuse prevention and counseling, and sometimes SUD treatment services, particularly to address nonmedical use of prescription medication. Older people with depressive symptoms have poorer functioning compared to those with chronic medical conditions such as lung disease, hypertension or diabetes. Depression also increases the perception of poor health, the utilization of health care services and costs. Older adults may resist addiction treatment and other mental health services due to internalized stigma regarding mental illness. However, when combined with alcohol, illicit substances, or addictive prescription drugs, they may metabolize differently in the body and cause adverse effects. Substance use disorders are characterized by intense, uncontrollable cravings for drugs and compulsive drug-seeking behaviors – even in the face of devastating consequences.

Overlap Between Substance Use Disorders And Signs Of Aging

Chronic pain is a common issue among senior citizens and can seriously impact their overall quality of life. Drug and alcohol abuse is harmful to health at any age, but never more so than in seniors. The impact of alcohol-related injuries is much more severe, the general physical substance abuse in older adults effects of drugs and alcohol are more serious, and dangerous medical interactions are a distinct and scary possibility. Studies estimate that by 2020, as many as 5.7 million adults aged 50 and older will have a substance use disorder (Han, Gfroerer, Colliver, & Penne, 2009).

Regarding prescription opioids, a study of adults aged 65 and older who participated in a Canadian drug benefit program found that 18% received at least one prescription for an opioid during the past year (Williams et al., 2008). Won et al. (2004) examined over 21,000 residents of nursing homes throughout the United States aged 65 and older and found that 30% were being prescribed a prescription opioid. Because medical exposure to prescription narcotics with abuse potential is a risk factor for drug abuse, receiving prescriptions for these medications may place older adults at risk of developing problems and potentially an addiction to these drugs (SAMHSA, 1998).

Physical and Mental Health

The following table shows the many types of barriers older adults potentially face in addressing substance misuse. The table includes citations of supporting research; access these references to learn more about each barrier and how it affects older adults. Also, for disulfiram to be useful, clients must stick to strict medication protocols.141 Doing so may be hard for older adults who have cognitive impairment or live alone and have no one to support them in taking medication as prescribed. A meta-analysis suggests that when compliance with disulfiram is not monitored, its efficacy is no different from that of control conditions.142
Monitoring for adherence is essential for disulfiram to be effective. People taking disulfiram may also need to be observed, as some may stop taking it on a day during which they want to drink.

It is equally important to focus on the long-term care of older adults suffering from mental disorders, as well as to provide caregivers with education, training and support. The global population is aging, and as the population ages, high-risk alcohol and other drug use, particularly cannabis and prescription medications, is growing https://ecosoberhouse.com/ among older adults (OA). OA, defined here as 50 years of age and older, have a number of unique vulnerabilities to drug and alcohol use due to both biological as well as psychosocial factors compared to younger adults. Understanding the wide spectrum of these vulnerabilities is important to assessment, diagnosis, and intervention.

Statistics of drug and alcohol abuse in seniors

Hanley Center also offers dual diagnosis treatment for older adults who may have co-occurring mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress. Hanley Center offers a five-day family program to provide support and education for anyone connected to a patient in treatment. At Hanley Center, your loved one can benefit from help in planning for continuing care as a way to keep their recovery going. Providers may confuse SUD symptoms with those of other chronic health conditions or with natural, age-related changes. Many are also prescribed medications to manage these conditions, including some which may be addictive in nature.

  • Substance abuse problems among older people are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
  • These changes create stress, and people may abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with that stress.
  • The treatment team at Hanley Center routinely works with seniors living with substance use disorders.
  • The brain adapts to continued use by developing a tolerance, where more drugs are needed to feel the same effect.
  • Older adults, as well as family members and caregivers, can take steps to prevent accidental drug misuse.

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