Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation for Seniors

Jun 14, 2016

Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation for Seniors

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Today, anywhere from 6-8 million older Americans are struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction.

Detecting a substance abuse problem in older adults can be difficult in the presence of other medical conditions and generational gaps. The symptoms of dementia, diabetes, and depression can all mimic the signs of drug use or alcoholism, so it’s not always clear when to search for help.

Factors Leading to Substance Abuse

Growing older can present a range of factors that might contribute to the abuse of drugs and alcohol – loneliness, the death of a loved one, and other physical or cognitive difficulties may cause someone to cope with substances. These tough circumstances are almost never made better by chronic abuse.

Although it’s a hideous sentiment, some people and families may feel that someone is too old to receive treatment for their addiction. This is quite opposite of the correct response to this issue considering the increased risks posed by substance abuse in elderly people.

The quality of life is important no matter a person’s age, so getting the treatment for you or your elderly loved one should always be pursued.

Rehabilitation Options for Seniors

Although drug and alcohol abuse in the elderly is nothing new, there has been an increase in the amount of treatment options and rehabilitation centers tailored to the needs of older adults.

Depending on how long the addiction or abuse has persisted, you’ll need to treat the recovery process with care. Withdrawal symptoms can present immediate health risks as the body starts to readjust to its normal chemical balance. This can include seizures, extreme confusion,

For help and support, your doctor is likely to recommend outpatient rehabilitation for mild to moderately severe cases of elderly substance abuse. This type of treatment is most effective with a supportive network of friends and family.

Outpatient rehabilitation is a safe choice and less expensive than inpatient detoxification in a hospital or other facility. The main difference is that each patient is responsible for attending their treatments and following through with recommendations on their own.

Treatments and Considerations

Severe cases may be better treated by inpatient rehabilitative treatments, especially if the patient does not have a reliable network of social support or a history of:

  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens
  • Previous detoxifications
  • Specific medical or psychiatric illnesses

More rehabilitation centers are offering inpatient services geared toward older adults due to the growing awareness of elderly drug and alcohol abuse. Registered nurses, physicians, psychiatrists, counselors and other specialists oversee most of these programs. An individual’s addiction or abuse is addressed in terms of their physical and emotional well-being, working to identify underlying issues specific to elderly people.

Treatments may include:

  • Case management services linking people to the appropriate medical, psychiatric, and social resources after having been discharged.
  • Age-appropriate content during treatment to help recovery information be better assimilated.
  • Counseling and coping strategies that deal with issues like the loss of a loved one or spouse, and the difficulties of aging.
  • Supportive material for families on how to help their loved one through this time.

Reaching the Road to Recovery

With growing older comes distinct changes in an individual’s biomedical interaction with drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse is known to accelerate the normal physiological decline associated with old age. This can increase the risk of injury, illness, and socioeconomic status – things that are already issues for the elderly population.

Despite these difficulties, it’s absolutely vital to get help if you or an elderly loved one is suffering from addiction or alcoholism.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How prevalent is addiction in the elderly community?

Findings from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that 20-30 percent of people ages 75 to 85 have experienced drinking problems and, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, 3.6 percent of adults aged 60 to 64 report using an illicit drug.

If you are concerned that your loved one has an addiction problem consider these drug treatment programs for seniors.

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How prevalent is medication abuse in the senior 65+ community?

Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, and some experience cognitive decline, which could lead to improper use of medications. Alternatively, those on a fixed income may abuse another person's remaining medication to save money. 

Prescription drug abuse in the elderly is more common than you think. If you believe your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs seek help immediately.

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