Elderly and Drug Use — What To Do For a Loved One Who Is Using Drugs

October 12, 2020

Substance use and abuse among the elderly (ages 65 and older) is a rapidly growing health crisis in the United States. Alcohol and drug abuse affect nearly 17% of older adults, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Substance use disorder  — which includes alcohol and drugs —  is a growing public health concern as the Baby Boomer population (those born between 1946 and 1964) are aging. 

It’s important to know the causes and warning signs of drug use in the elderly population so you know what to do if addiction finds its way into the lives of you and your loved ones. 

Causes of Drug Abuse in the Elderly

Older adults may turn to substances for many reasons. In fact, the reasons for addiction and misuse are just as varied as the individuals who suffer from it. Life events may provoke substance abuse that requires medical and therapeutic intervention. Some of the more common reasons elderly people become addicted to drugs and alcohol include: 

  • Life changes (i.e., retirement or death of a spouse/loved one) that cause the individual to self-medicate to take away the emotional pain 
  • Loss of income or home (i.e., relocating to a nursing home or long-term care facility)
  • Loss of autonomy if they have medical needs or require more hands-on care than previously
  • Insomnia and sleep troubles
  • Family conflict
  • Physical pain (i.e., arthritis pain, pain after surgery)
  • Unaddressed emotional pain and/or complications
  • Physical dependence on prescription medication (such as opioids prescribed after surgery, for example)

Signs an Elderly Loved One Is Using Drugs

As our loved ones age, their mental and physical health begins to change. Their relationships and the way they navigate the world may undergo some changes as well. Because of these expected changes, addiction can be challenging to recognize in older adults. But it is important to pay attention to any changes or unusual behaviors that your elderly loved one displays because drug use is increasingly common among this population. 

If you suspect an elderly loved one is abusing drugs, there are certain signs and symptoms you can look for. Some of the more common signs of drug addiction in the elderly include: 

  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Irritability 
  • Sadness, depression
  • Declining personal hygiene (i.e., bathes less frequently)
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Losing connection with loved ones/lack of interest in connecting with friends and family
  • Lack of interest in usual hobbies and pastimes 
  • Memory issues
 

Many healthcare professionals overlook substance abuse in the elderly. This may be due to misunderstanding the emotional and physical toll that aging can have on an individual. Not only that, but it can be difficult to diagnose substance use disorder because many of the symptoms of drug abuse mimic symptoms of medical conditions, such as depression, diabetes, and dementia. 

Whether your loved one has been using drugs for many years or has formed addiction issues later in life, there are treatment options available to help your loved one get sober and get back on the path to health, wellness, and happiness. 

What To Do For an Elderly Loved One Who Is Abusing Drugs

It is important to stay in close contact with friends and family as they age. If you know and love an elderly person, be aware of all of the medications they may be taking, and the potential for misuse and abuse of these medications. You need to help them manage their medications to avoid negative drug interactions and/or prescription drug misuse that can lead to addiction.

If you suspect your loved one is addicted to drugs — whether prescription or otherwise — it is critical to seek out help. Summer House Detox in Florida has extensive experience working with seniors facing addiction. Our caring and knowledgeable staff will treat your loved one with the dignity and respect they deserve as they take the path to sobriety, recovery, and wellness. 

Older adults require specialized alcohol detox programs and drug rehabilitation programs unique to their demographic. This is partly because senior citizens are often medically fragile or dealing with existing medical conditions along with addiction, and need specialized addiction treatment. 

The Summer House Detox program in Florida specializes in addiction in individuals over age 65. We will provide your loved one with access to medical, psychiatric, and social resources to help them on the road to recovery and live a healthy, happy lifestyle after treatment. Our mission is to help your elderly loved one live an addiction-free life. The first step for many is the detoxification process. The Summer House is South Florida’s premier alcohol and substance abuse detox center. We’ll be with your loved one every step of the way as they detox and restore health and sobriety. 

Post detox and treatment, peer, and 12-step programs can help those recovering remain sober. In the elderly population, they need to have a support network of like-minded individuals who have experienced similar life events and circumstances and can help provide support for continued sobriety.

Why Medical Detox Services are Necessary

As we get older, our bodies process drugs and alcohol differently. Our tolerance for alcohol goes down, and drugs may stay in our bodies longer than when we were younger, for example. Because many elderly people use over the counter medications along with prescription medications, there are significant increases in risk factors and alcohol and drugs (whether prescribed or not). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 80% of older adults use at least one prescription medication every day, with more than 50% taking more than five medications and supplements each day. This can lead to serious health issues, particularly when prescription medications are misused or abused and/or taken with alcohol.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance by the elderly population, with prescription medications such as opioid analgesics, benzodiazepine sedatives, and tranquilizers following closely behind. 

Medical detox services are often needed for the elderly due to prescription drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and dependency issues that can often affect aging bodies differently. Medical alcohol and drug detox can help the individual safely withdraw from the substance they are addicted to and depending on.

Going Through Addiction with Summer House Detox

Here at the Summer House, we’ll help your loved one taper off of the substances they are addicted to and stabilize their physical health.

Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in Florida for senior citizens, as well as many substance detox programs with specific care for this particular population. Summer House will be by you and your loved one’s side during the important but difficult step of detoxification and provide supervised medical treatments to help safely detox from alcohol and drugs. Medical staff and therapists will guide you through your road to recovery that is tailored to your specific needs. We understand that each individual is special and unique, and will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity during their stay.

If you or someone you know is in need of detox treatment in West Palm Beach, give Summer House Detox Center a call at 800-719-1090 to schedule a FREE consultation. You can also visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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