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Recovery from alcohol or drug abuse is a process that requires ongoing care and support for a person to sustain their recovery. Many interventions and programs provide support and relapse prevention, however, older people in recovery have somewhat different needs in the type of support that helps them the most.

Drinking among teenagers and college students gets a lot of media attention, but alcohol use disorders do not just affect the young. Overall, it’s estimated that 16 million adults have a substance use disorder, with around 10 million of those disorders being primarily from alcohol use disorder. However, substance use disorders among older adults are rising. According to SAMHSA, around one million adults over the age of 65 have a substance use disorder. Other studies have indicated that from 2002 to 2013, the rate of alcohol abuse among elderly people rose over 100%, and the rate of high-risk drinking rose 65% during the same period.

Binge drinking, which is classified as having four standard drinks for women, and five standard drinks for men, is growing among older people as well. This is a real concern for the elderly population, as they also have numerous health conditions that are aggravated by binge drinking. Alcohol also tends to affect older people more significantly than younger people, in part due to natural changes in the body with aging, but also due to the occurrence of many diseases in older people.  

Drinking in older women is a growing concern in terms of alcohol use. Some of the reasons for drinking are due to the loss of a spouse, financial concerns upon retirement, caregiving stressors, and also children leaving (aka the “empty nest syndrome”). Other studies reinforce these findings, especially among older women who are characterized as “late-onset drinkers” who develop an alcohol use disorder later in life. Oftentimes, late-onset alcohol use disorders are associated with children leaving home and/or the death of a spouse.

Why is Substance Use Growing Among Older People?

One reason for the increase in the rate of substance use disorders among the elderly is the large number of people born during Baby Boom years (from 1944 to 1964), as those folks are now aging and becoming senior citizens. Also, this generation, unlike those before them, grew up in a culture that was more open and accepting of illicit drugs, as well as prescription medication.

Furthermore, studies indicate that older adults see their drinking as normal, and might be unaware of how affected they are by alcohol. The incorporation of alcohol into one’s daily routine is also a factor that reinforces the use of alcohol. Other studies note similar findings, as it becomes customary after a long day of work, or if retired, spending time drinking during the day.

What Treatment Works for Older Adults?

The good news is that treatment for substance use disorders is effective, and there is some evidence that older people may respond better to treatment than younger people. There have been recent studies that show older people had good prognoses after alcohol use disorder treatment and responded well to it, even several months after leaving treatment, and there was no difference in outcomes related to how long a person had an alcohol use disorder before attending treatment.

In terms of specialized factors in treating older people, it is recommended that treatment is best provided with others of the same age in the same setting. Furthermore, it is important to address the frequently co-occurring issues that older people face, such as grief, isolation, and declining physical health. The need for treating these disorders was especially true in older women.  Treatment for older people needs to have an emphasis on building social supports into treatment and recovery. Older people also benefit from having information presented in multiple learning formats, such as spoken accompanied by visuals using graphs and pictures to illustrate concepts about alcohol and drug use disorders and recovery. Older adults also benefit from the repetition of concepts and education regarding recovery and treatment. One of the major themes regarding support for older adults is to minimize shame around addiction, as older people struggle more with shame regarding addiction than younger people.

What Does an Older Person Need to do to Start Treatment?

If you or your loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, detox is usually the first step in treatment, regardless of a person’s age. Detox helps you get a substance out of your body, and in a supervised program such as Summer House, you will get the oversight you need to ensure that you are in a safe setting with minimal withdrawal symptoms while undergoing detox. It’s important not to stop drinking on your own, as this can lead to seizures or other medical complications. Many older adults also have medical conditions, which put them at greater risk for complications from alcohol detox, and therefore in need of medical oversight.

Relapse Prevention Among Older Adults

The need for addressing co-occurring depression, loss, and grief is also paramount to the ongoing recovery in older people. The loss of a spouse, friends, and the social support a person may have had when younger, all lead to isolation and loneliness. Failing to address the need to build up and enhance social support often leads to relapse. Introducing mutual-help support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to older adults is important, as this will help them find a supportive group after treatment during aftercare and long-term recovery. Encouraging the involvement of family in treatment is also important if the family is willing and available to do so.

Recovery Support and Relapse Prevention at Summer House

People come from all over the United States to Summer House Detox Center in Florida. At Summer House, you will find a serene environment, which will provide you with the medical oversight and support that you need during this critical time to detox from alcohol or other substances and begin your journey to recovery. Also, Summer House provides numerous amenities such as:

  • A jacuzzi
  • Flat-screen TVs in each bedroom
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Entertainment, including movies and TV
  • Massage services
  • Yoga
  • Tai-chi
  • Fitness programs
  • Acupuncture
  • A 4-star chef
  • Indoor and outdoor dining options
  • Full course meals

In addition to medical supervision and nursing services, you will have the opportunity for individual and group counseling, along with art therapy, and on-site Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. All of these services will help provide you with the recovery support and relapse prevention skills you need to get through detox and start your journey to recovery. Most people will go on to another treatment program following detox, and if you need this type of treatment, the staff at Summer House will arrange for you to go to another longer-term treatment program.

If you or someone you know is in need of addiction treatment in Fort Lauderdale, give Summer House Detox Center a call at 800-719-1090 to speak with a qualified addiction specialist to discuss your need for detox services. Or, fill out our free insurance verification form to determine whether treatment at Summer House can be covered by your health plan. You can also visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.