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Who Drug Addiction Affects

Senior Addiction, Risk Factors, And Treatment

Seniors may have higher motives for drug use with the age-specific challenges they face. Binge drinking and Opioid abuse remain the most concerning addictions.

Senior Addiction Facts And Figures

Individuals who abuse drugs often taper off as they age, however, sources indicate people 65 and older still face addiction in their communities. Drugs like Marijuana, Cocaine, and Opioids were found in elderly populations, and alcoholism is steadily increasing in the senior populations. SAMHSA noted in 2014, “1 million seniors” suffered from addiction. Additionally, 978,000 senior citizens in this category faced an alcohol use disorder, while 161,000 seniors out of the million cited abused illicit substances. Numbers rose between 2.2% to 3%, resulting in, “2.8 million seniors with substance use disorders between 2002 and 2006,” and approximately 5.7 million around 2020.

Behavioral addictions like gambling have been present in elderly populations as well. Compulsive gambling can risk financial loss, time away from loved ones, and produce moodiness or depression. Since seniors have free time and gambling creates excitement, this has been a commonly reported theme as one study found that 40% of gamblers are over 50. According to experts, chronic gamblers have higher risks of depression, chronic pain, loneliness, and financial insecurity. As a result, these can all lead to complications and other addictions within the senior community.

Senior Alcohol Abuse: Binge Drinking Trends

Senior alcoholism has concerned health officials as it has doubled compared to the general population. A NSDUH report includes statistics of older adults consuming alcohol 11.1 days in an entire month. Furthermore, another 2008 survey found 40% of adults 65+ drank alcohol. Another study noted a 107% increase in elderly drinking.

More recent studies have found elderly women indulging in binge drinking more often than they have in the past. A study surveying 65,000 elderly men and women found 6,500 men and 1,700 women who consumed alcohol. As a note, they highlighted women’s drinking has increased from previous years. Women can potentially get intoxicated faster than men due to their bodily makeup; therefore, they should be especially careful to practice moderation. Signs of binge drinking can be easy to spot for elderly and non-elderly populations. Women drink 4 drinks in 1 sitting or 2-hour timeframe, while men drink 5 drinks in a sitting or 2-hour timeframe. Binge drinking can lead to heavy drinking, and possibly an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

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Effects Of Senior Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol consumption in excess and abuse can create a myriad of health risks, including but not limited to:

  • A dependence

  • Kidney or liver problems

  • Alcohol withdrawal

  • Bloating

  • Falling

  • Blurry vision

  • Bruising or injury

  • An inability to stop or control drinking

  • Irritability

  • Declining function to complete work tasks

  • Fatigue

  • Diabetic complications

  • Slurred speech

  • Poor coordination

  • Dehydration

  • Inflamed pancreas

Because of declining health the elderly face, such side effects can cause further damage. Lastly, if the elderly individual combines alcohol with other chemicals like Cocaine, prescription medications, or Opioids, they have a higher risk of fatally overdosing.

Senior Opioid Abuse

The ongoing Opioid Crisis impacts a variety of populations and demographics; for elderly populations, much of it stems from prescription Opioids. SAMHSA noted 118 elderly individuals consuming prescribed Opioids in 2011. AARP disclosed there was an additional revelation of senior Opioid dependence in the past. Out of 14,800 Opioid-related fatalities, 5,900 were seniors, with Opioid abuse rising elevenfold from 1999.

Roughly 17% of elderly individuals 65 and up abused prescription meds. Since older patients tend to suffer chronic pain, prescription medications are needed to function; however, many transition to illicit Opioids like Heroin and Fentanyl, quickly getting hooked. Because of the body’s vulnerability to pain and the effects of aging, side effects of Opioid abuse may be more damaging. Contacting a treatment provider and considering detox would be strongly suggested to get sober.

Senior Drug Abuse And Risk Factors: Mental Health

Senior substance abuse is not as uncommon as some would think. Aging comes with many challenges ranging from declining health, chronic pain, to aching muscles and bones, the death of loved ones, unique social experiences associated with a specific time period, to changes in mental health.

To illustrate the relationship between drug dependencies and motivating factors in the senior community, one can look at mental health. According to, depression in elderly communities occurs primarily because of other underlying medical health concerns. In general, depression is present in 1% to 2% of elderly populations; however, 13.5% of those who suffer disabilities or health conditions have depression. Furthermore, effects that create stress such as diseases of despair, financial challenges and separation or death from family can serve as motivation to abuse substances during hardship. Such conditions can worsen mental health and contribute to senior drug use and/or alcoholism.

Senior Addiction And Abuse Treatment

There are a variety of treatment methods catered to elderly populations. Some facilities may offer senior rehabilitation with treatment for injuries more specific to seniors, such as hip fractures. Some facilities offer senior-only treatment with activities catered to elderly patients. Support groups that nurture senior perspectives, and medical staff that try to relate with senior patients are available. Diagnostic services and counseling are available, along with cutting-edge medication (Antidepressants, Benzodiazepines, Methadone). Lastly, family members may have the option of visiting if seniors prefer to stay on site, providing support and connection in rehab.

Hope For Senior Addiction

Senior health is an important focus with several options for support. If you or a loved one needs senior-specific care, contact a treatment provider for guidance, risk-free. Future patients can inquire about funding options, treatment plans, and lengths of stay, whether travel is ideal, medication compatibilities and pre-existing medications to name a few. Take the first step for changing your life; there is still hope.

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