Although you may not hear about alcohol, illegal substance, and prescription drug abuse by the groups known as the Gen X and Baby Boomers, the abuse has risen at an alarming rate in the past 20 years. This is because drugs are easier to obtain on the streets, in legal drug shops, and through prescriptions. In fact, the misuse of substances is now considered one of the most complicated health issues facing both groups within the United States health system. Thankfully, there are treatment programs and options for adults over 50 years of age.
Reasons for Addiction
Some older adults endure the problems life throws at them without complaint or doctor visits, and others actively self-medicate; therein lies the problem of insufficient data regarding the issue. With limited data, the estimation is that between 18 and 25 percent of the elderly rely on one or more addictive substances each day. The use of the substance is often a means of handling pain complications, emotional issues, or medical conditions. Depression, loss of loved ones, money problems, and lack of sleep also contribute to the need for the pain release that the substance abuse is used for.
Problems of Addiction
When an individual retires from the workplace or becomes incapacitated due to a health problem, his or her social life can take a dramatic turn. While at work, a day is filled with discussions, motivations, problem solving, and a busy schedule; however, once someone retires, the day can suddenly become quiet and lonely. With those sudden social changes can come depression and solitude that health care statistics claims will top 5.9 million elderly substance abusers in 2020.
Signs of Addiction
To complicate matters with diagnosing substance abuse in the elderly, many mental and physical symptoms that occur as some individuals age can hide the signs of addiction, while other changes can replicate the transformations that would occur if a person were abusing a drug. This can make it difficult for family members or medical professionals to identify and treat the potential problems of addiction. There are a few signs family members can look for if they believe a substance abuse may be an issue, and the signs include cognitive confusion, seeking solitary isolation, empty and hidden alcohol containers, severe depression, and talk of suicide. Family members should also note excessive fatigue, unexplained mood swings, slurred speech, and argumentative behavior.
Risks of Addiction
The risks for substance abuse related health problems are a real concern for the elderly substance user and can often lead to irreversible health and mental decline. Spending available money during retirement years on drugs instead of nutrition or social interactions can lead to further decline and encourage the perception of isolation and depression that many elderly individuals already battle. This can lead to further chronic health problems associated with the lack of proper personal care.
Treatment of Addiction
Treatment options and recovery programs are important considerations for family members worried about their elderly parent’s substance abuse. Heart failure, liver problems, strokes, and memory difficulties can be challenging for loved ones to deal with when substances are abused by already ailing elderly individuals. With specialized programs such as the drug rehab San Antonio designed for people over 50, the hope of recovery is a real possibility and can help both the abuser and their supporting family to understand the problems and risks addiction can present.
If you have an elderly family member with an alcohol, illegal substance, or prescription drug abuse problem, consider a supervised detoxification program in a drug rehab facility. History has shown that outside help is required to kick drug abuse, even if it is excessive alcohol consumption.