Many people think of college students or even teenagers when they think of people with addictions. But addiction does not discriminate. It is becoming increasingly more common for elderly people to struggle with drug addiction or alcohol abuse.
Elderly people are becoming addicted to their pain medications as well as to other drugs and medications. While they may start taking the medications for legitimate mental or medical issues, that does not mean that such drugs are any less addictive. There have been some elderly people who have had addictions for a long time, but they may show more signs of addiction as they grow older. If you are a senior citizen and have an addiction, it is important to know you can find and receive addiction treatment help today.
Drug addictions later in life may be more dangerous than addictions in younger people. This is because people’s metabolisms often slow down as they get older. When older people ingest substances, their slower metabolisms do not filter substances as well as younger people’s bodies. The substances may linger in the body longer, which is why some elderly people experience accidental overdoses even when ingesting relatively smaller amounts of the substances.
Aging and Drug Addiction
Since the elderly population can be quite wise with a wealth of life experiences, it can make it more difficult to admit that they might have drug addictions. If you are a senior with a drug addiction, there are programs and places that may help you find the road to recovery. If you recognize someone else in the elderly community with a drug addiction, know that you can offer them support and guide them to treatment as well.
Aging may produce factors that encourage people to abuse drugs and medications. During this time, the body’s metabolism slows down and people may experience chronic illnesses, losses in mobility, the deaths of loved ones, and conditions such as depression. The emotional and physical pains that come along with aging may push seniors into abusing drugs. In addition, not all physicians have not been educated about how to recognize drug addiction in elderly people.
Older people may be taking multiple medications and struggling with physical problems or confusion, so they may be at a higher risk for misusing their prescription medications. Because people may not expect them to use drugs or because their addiction may resemble other conditions, it may be possible for elderly people to use illicit drugs without being detected. If this use progresses, it can be dangerous.
As more and more medications are becoming available to treat the aches and pains that seniors may experience, there are more elderly people who are taking medications to relieve their pain and alter their moods. There are also more seniors who are abusing recreational drugs as well. But again, drug addiction does not discriminate. People of all ages, including seniors, are susceptible to drug addiction or misuse.
More than one million people sixty-five years old or older had a substance use disorder in the United States in 2014. Given the large numbers of older adults and the large volumes of prescription and illegal drugs, the numbers may climb even higher.
Emotional Causes of Elderly Drug Addiction
A number of emotional and environmental conditions may contribute to elderly drug addiction as well. Some of these causes include:
These are just some of the emotional and environmental causes of elderly drug addiction. There are many others that may occur as well.
Mental and Physical Addiction Symptoms
It should also be noted that elderly people may display mental or physical symptoms of addiction. Unfortunately, other people may dismiss these symptoms as signs of normal aging. Some of these symptoms include:
- Reduced appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slurred speech
- Poor personal hygiene
- Less interest in appearance
- Sleep problems
While these could be signs that someone is getting older, they may be also signs of an elderly drug addiction. This is why it is often difficult to tell whether someone in this age group is having a problem with alcohol or drug use.
It is important to seek treatment for a drug addiction, no matter what age someone may be. It is especially important for people in this age group. Elderly drug users may encounter other addiction-related health complications that may not be problems for younger addicts. There are treatment programs for elderly drug addicts, just as there are different types of treatments for different members of the population.
Behaviors of Prescription Medication Abuse
There are certain behaviors that may signify that someone is misusing or abusing prescription medications. Some of the behaviors may include the following:
- Forging, selling, or stealing prescriptions
- Obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors
- Telling doctors that you lost your prescription to try to obtain other prescriptions
- Taking a higher dose than has been prescribed to you
- Making poor decisions while taking prescription medications
- Appearing high or full of energy
- Feeling or looking highly sedated