JHS-“Senior Drug Abuse: What Do You Need To Know?”

Efforts to prevent drug abuse overpoweringly focus on youth. But, the requirement for addiction treatment in older adults continues to grow, as the baby boomer generation continues to age. Today, senior citizens are using illicit drugs, being arrested for drug-related charges and dying from drug overdose deaths at rates higher than ever before.

Moreover, older adults are the age group most likely to consume multiple medications and

Senior Drug Abuse
Senior Drug Abuse

receive long-term prescriptions. Thus, they’re the most likely to suffer from memory loss and cognitive decline, which are major risk factors for accidental prescription drug abuse.

According to a research study conducted in the United State, substance use disorder rates among people older than 50 years are estimated to increase from about 2.8 million in 2006 to 5.7 million in 2020.

This fact-based article is compiled to provide information gathered from credible, fact-based government sources to give you high-quality overview about;

  • Trends of senior drug abuse
  • Risk factors for senior drug abuse
  • Potential symptoms and indicators of senior drug abuse
  • Senior drug abuse treatment

Trends of Senior Drug Abuse

Psychiatric Times approximates that in the United States, around a quarter of all prescription drugs are sold to elderly people, and close to 11 percent of this population may abuse these medications.

  • Alcohol use remains the most commonly used substance among older adults. Around 3 million seniors over the age of 65 battle alcohol abuse and this number may jump to more than 6 million by the year 2020 (1).
  • Tobacco use is relatively prevalent among older adults, with about 14% of those aged 65 years and older reporting tobacco use in the last 12 months.
  • Illicit drug use is more widespread among American older adults than among older adults in almost any other country in the world (2).
  • Cannabis use by older adults is significantly more widespread than other drugs. Among adults aged 50 years and older in 2012, 4.6 million reported past-year marijuana use, and less than one million reported inhalants, hallucinogens, cocaine, methamphetamine, and/or heroin use in the past year (3)(4).
  • Prescribed and over-the-counter medications use is significantly more prevalent in older adults compared to younger adults, increasing the hazard for harmful drug interactions, misuse, and abuse. In 2012, 2.9 million adults aged 50 years and older reported non-medical use of psychotherapeutic medications in the past year (5).

Risk Factors for Senior Drug Abuse

Compared with the general population, although the current proportions of older adults with substance use disorders remain low, a growing proportion and number of older adults are at risk for hazardous drinking, prescription drug misuse, and illicit substance use and abuse.

In late life, individual, familial and social factors can contribute to substance use and abuse. The Table#1 outlines some of the potential risk factors for senior citizens associated with the use of illicit substances.

Risk Factors for Senior Drug Abuse
Physical risk factors Psychiatric risk factors Social risk factors
Caucasian ethnicity History of alcohol problems Affluence
Physical disabilities or reduced mobility Previous and/or concurrent SUD Bereavement
Chronic physical illness, Poor health status Previous and/or concurrent psychiatric illness Unexpected or forced retirement
Significant drug burden Avoidance coping style Social isolation

Table#1: Adapted from Alexis et al., 2015

Potential Symptoms and Indicators of Senior Drug Abuse

As people get older, their physical health, mental health, and personal relationships may start to weaken. Although addiction may be more difficult to recognize, it’s important to pay attention to any unusual signs your elderly loved one displays.

The Table#2 outlines some of the potential indicators and symptoms for senior citizens associated with the use of illicit substances.

Potential Symptoms & Indicators of Senior Drug Abuse
Physical symptoms Cognitive symptoms Psychiatric symptoms Social symptoms
Falls, bruises, and burns Disorientation Depression Family problems
Headaches, Incontinence Recent difficulties in decision making Sleep disturbances, problems, or insomnia Financial problems
Increased tolerance to alcohol or medications Memory loss Anxiety Social isolation
Poor nutrition, Idiopathic seizures Overall cognitive impairment Excessive mood swings Running out of medication early
Dizziness, Sensory deficits Borrowing medication from others
Chronic pain, Blackouts Legal problems

Table#2: Adapted from Barry et al., 2002


Senior drug abuse treatment

The alarming rate at which elder citizens are developing addictions to various substances is certainly reason for concern and something that should not be ignored by caretakers or family members.

Once an addiction is recognized in senior citizens, it is critical to seek out an accurate treatment center that has specific and detailed experience working with elders facing addiction.

As per Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), the following are recommended as effective treatment approaches for older adults in substance abuse treatment:

  • Cognitive behavioral approaches
  • Medical/psychiatric approaches
  • Group-based approaches
  • Individual counseling
  • Marital and family involvement / family therapy
  • Case Management/Community-linked services and outreach

You should also look for skilled care programs that specialize in handling this type of addiction and offer elderly care services, as individuals over 65 typically lack the social support required throughout recovery. These elderly care services will provide the older adults with access to medical, psychiatric and social resources to allow for a healthy lifestyle to continue after treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction issues later in life and need help finding a treatment & care program, immediately contact a SAMHSA Store. today.

For more information, about in home personal care, for seniors and disabled adults. Call Jamhuri Healthcare Services Inc. 1-800-547-2851  or visit us on the web: www.jamhuricares.com



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