Man exemplifying what happens with substance abuse in older adults

The Impact of Substance Abuse on Older Adults

Many people begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol in their teens and early twenties, but this is usually only a temporary phase. Unfortunately, some people go on into their older years to develop an addiction to these substances. The worst part is that the older a person gets, the more significant the impact is on their health. Educate yourself about the causes and risk factors for substance abuse in the elderly and what you can do to help someone you love.

Substance abuse in older adults can manifest differently and present more severe side effects. At My 5 Palms, we realize the importance of a personalized addiction treatment plan. Our evidence-based treatment programs consider all factors that will affect your recovery. Call us today at 1.844.675.1022 to learn more about how we customize our treatment for older adults with substance use disorders.

How Serious Is Substance Abuse in Older Adults?

Substance abuse has grown disproportionately among older adults, which the National Institutes of Health considers people aged 65 and up. Many more people in this age group have been admitted into programs for addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs than in previous decades.

This increase is especially concerning because substance abuse can be even more dangerous for older adults than younger people. What could be considered moderate drinking or casual drug use for a young person could be particularly hazardous to someone in their 60s and beyond. The chronic health conditions that plague people as they enter their golden years can compromise their immune systems and weaken their bodies’ abilities to stand up to toxic substances, such as those found in drugs and alcohol.

What Leads to Substance Abuse in the Elderly?

To address the prevalence of substance abuse in older adults, it is crucial to understand what causes them to turn to substances in the first place. The reasons young people use drugs or alcohol are often quite different than those of older adults, although there is a bit of an overlap. Some of the most common reasons that an older adult or elderly person may misuse drugs or alcohol include:

  • More likely to be prescribed prescription drugs for pain relief – As you age, you may be more vulnerable to injuries or need surgeries that require opioid painkiller prescriptions. These are highly addictive, and many older adults develop a dependence on their prescribed medication.
  • More likely to take prescriptions for mental health disorders – The elderly are more susceptible to depression and grief due to isolation or losing loved ones. They may be prescribed benzodiazepines or sedatives, which are also highly addictive.
  • Higher risk of drug interactions – Older people are more likely to require medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. If they are also prescribed prescription painkillers, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications, they may experience dangerous drug interactions. These interactions can amplify the effects of all medications being used, leading to worsening health problems. 

Because people become more sensitive to the effects of drugs or alcohol as they age, they may not realize they are vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction. If they used these substances when they were younger, they might believe they can consume the exact amounts they did before. But their bodies cannot process and metabolize these substances as effectively as they did in their younger years. Therefore, substance abuse in older adults must be addressed promptly to prevent addiction and potentially fatal complications.

My 5 Palms: Treating Substance Abuse in Older Adults

Aging adults can experience changes in their mood, memory, and energy, making it more challenging to detect substance abuse in the elderly. If you notice changes in a senior you love, contact My 5 Palms today at 1.844.675.1022 for guidance on recognizing and treating substance abuse in older people.

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