Drug abuse and dependence were once seen as predominantly among young people, but the elderly disproportionately abuse alcohol, narcotics, and illegal drugs.

Alongside younger adults, older people have not shown strong alcohol or substance usage prevalence over time. This event has contributed to a misconception of the abuse of alcohol or narcotics by elderly people.

Facts about Substance Abuse among Elders

Alcohol consumption and drug abuse are dangerous at all ages, but never more detrimental than in older adults. The effects of injuries of alcohol are much more severe, drug and alcohol’s general physical effects are serious and dangerous medication interactions are a distinct and frightening option. The list below are other details provided by the National Drug Abuse Institute:

  • About 2.5 million elderly people are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • In widowers over 75 years of age, the highest alcohol level in the US is found.
  • Alcohol or drug disorders compensate for up to 11 percent of old patients in hospitals.
  • Elderly people are treated with medical and alcohol-related problems as often.
  • Nearly half of those in nursing homes had problems with alcohol.
  • The amount of about 17 million treatments for a calmer, the medication most abused, was issued every year.

The impact of aging and elderly substance abuse

The effects of non-recognized drug use or dependency on an aging population are now starting to be explained in clinical research. The possible harmful effects of substance abuse and an aging brain are due to complications that arise with an increasing frequency with age, such as psychiatric co-morbidity, cognitive impairments, and frailties.

Alcohol was the main addictive substance most frequently used among those aged 50 years or older. The second main addiction drug, Opiates, was the most frequently reported by people aged 50 and 59 years of age. Such people were also the most likely to get alcohol, drug, and stimulant misuse hospital admissions.

The most common drugs used with potential abuse are medicines such as benzodiazepines, prescription analgesics, and skeletal muscle relaxants for fear, discomfort, and insomnia. The extent of prescription-based addiction was analyzed in the medical record of 100 elderly patients who had committed to the Mayo Inpatient Addictions Clinic between 1974 and 1993. Sedative/hypnotics (mainly benzodiazepines) and prescription analgesics were the most often exploited.

Addiction in the Early and Late-Onset

The Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Treatment notes that elderly people with a history with substance use can be categorized according to two general categories: early and late-onset addiction. The first applies to people who are over 65 years of age and who have been using drugs and alcohol while the second experiences dependency later in their lives.

Early-Onset Addiction​

The early beginning abuse (where the abuse started previous to 65 years) is much more mental and physical occurrence than by their late-starting equivalents by Van Citters and Brockmann reported in the Journal of Double Diagnoses.

Alcoholic individuals account for 66 percent of early-stage substance abusers. Tolerant attitudes towards drug and alcohol consumption, family conflict and financial difficulties are the causes of this form of abuse.

Late-Onset Addiction​

Potential causes (these formed after 65) for late addiction involve depression, income loss, a loved one’s demise, placement at nursing homes or general relocation, sleeping problems, and health degradation.

Depression, major operations and memory loss are the most common health conditions that lead to late use. Late-recurrence offenders usually experience less than early-recurrent physical and emotional health issues. In the Journal of Drug Safety, Moos’s study reports that they compensate for 25% of all people with drug abuse issues.

The most common substance abused by Elders

Alcohol is used most commonly by the aged. Prescriptive pharmaceutical products are available in a close second, in particular opioids and benzodiazepines. Please read and know why and what signs of abuse are there.

Alcohol Abuse

Financial, adult, and family factors may contribute to or relate to excessive drinking in their later lives. Research shows that Caucasian males are extremely susceptible to these issues resulting in addiction.

Psychiatric risk factors include underlying and/or concomitant disability, prior or ongoing mental illness and coping strategy reduction. This coping strategy applies to the personal tendency to avoid and confront problems and challenges. This pattern is often correlated with drug abuse. Eventually, the factors of social risk including poverty, loneliness, and premature or coerced retirement may contribute to alcohol abuse by elderly people.

Symptoms of alcohol abuse in the elderly

These include drinking alone, drunkenness (before, after, or during dinner), lack of focus to activities that the individual enjoyed doing before, and alcohol consumption are given warnings on prescribed drugs advising of possible interactions.

Slurred expression and outward appearance adjustments are all symptoms of course. Chronic health issues, uncertainty, anger, loss of memory and depression, which are not developed, are common symptoms as well.

Prescription Drug Abuse​ 

If an elderly person takes multiple drugs, he or she can unintentionally misuse them. This can also be because of a change in cognition, which is a common part of aging, or because alarm notices are overlooked.

Senior citizens can find it hard to recall when and how many of their prescriptions they take, especially when their brains are flouted, and they take many drugs for a relatively long time.

Symptoms of Prescription drug abuse in the elderly

There are four categories of symptoms: emotional, psychological, physical and psychiatric neglect and drug abuse by elderly people.

Cognitive Symptoms

Disorientation and concentration impairment is the primary neurological signs of drug abuse. It is possible to ignore this because it is normal for old age. Recent problems with decision-making, which can be evident to households, include a stronger symbol. There may also be general cognitive impairment.

Emotional Symptoms

This can include unexpected social isolation, relatives, legal, financial or mental problems like the use of drugs by others, having two or more physicians ‘ prescriptions for the same medicine. The individual can then continue to fail early.

Physical Symptoms

Poor hygiene, incontinence, diminished self-care, decreased resistance or irregular medication behavior, dizziness, poor nutrition, visual deficits, idiopathic hallucinations, blackouts, and reports of chronic pain are the most prominent physical symptoms of prescription drugs addiction.

Psychiatric Symptoms

Eventually, insomniac and other sleep disorders, anxiety, erratic moods, and depression are part of this group. They may be more upset or distant or seem lost and ignored. We chat very often about a drug, and they’re afraid to go anywhere without it.

When to seek help

Recovery options for the elderly can differ by care level and include preparation and rehabilitation, medication, medical detoxification, and ambulatory or hospice services. In the case of a person’s illness, medical recovery services are often prescribed because of the intense clinical, physical and emotional demands of elderly people.

The individualized and integrated care strategy yields the best treatments for the elderly. The whole scope of a person’s needs, from mental health and medical issues, co-occurring disorders, financial difficulties as well as lack of a social support system and physical and nutritive fitness deficiencies, should be discussed.

People experience complex health issues, especially when they get old. Therefore, a medically supervised detoxification should be suggested for individuals who foresee their retirement. Alcohol, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, three of the substances that are commonly exploited more commonly, cause the most serious withdrawal effects.

This integrated care is provided by a highly trained and caring team of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, professional therapists, councilors, healthcare workers and other skilled practitioners.

The alarming rate of addiction to various substances in people aged 65 or older is a concern and should not be overlooked by medical professionals, relatives or family members. Many elderly people may withdraw from seeking treatment because they are comfortable with their community. In such cases, if an individual refuses therapy for this or any cause, medical intervention could be appreciated.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.