When you imagine a person with a drinking or drug problem, you probably picture someone younger – perhaps a college student or a young professional who maintains an active social life. However, addiction in older adults is a growing problem in the U.S. today. This issue is partly because the baby boom generation currently represents such a large segment of the population – an estimated 72 million Americans. But if you have older family members who might be vulnerable to an addiction, there are other factors to consider, as well.
Why Older Adults Might Get Addicted
Many baby boomers grew up during the Summer of Love, Woodstock and the turbulent Vietnam War era – a period where it became more acceptable to experiment with drugs. As they move into their golden years, they may return to drug and alcohol use as a coping mechanism to manage the stress of this new phase in life.
It’s also possible an older person may inadvertently become addicted to their prescription medications, even when they are careful to take them as prescribed. Drugs such as opioids and benzodiazepines are extremely addictive and have a high potential for abuse. Because of the memory lapses that often accompany aging, an older person might forget they have already taken their daily dose and take another, thus creating the potential for an accidental addiction.
Older adults who are retired and have more free time can also progress more rapidly with an addiction because there are fewer people around to note the changes in their behavior and ask them if they need help.
Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse in the Elderly
While many of the signs of drug and alcohol abuse are the same across the generations, some may change as a person ages, which can make it more challenging to identify a potential problem. Further complicating the matter is that some signs mimic symptoms of other age-related health issues. If you are a loved one or a caregiver of a senior citizen, here are some things to look for.
- Isolation or secretive behavior
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Depression, anxiety or cognitive impairment
- Decline in personal hygiene
- Hoarding medications or lying about their medication use
- Mood swings
- Poor coordination
- Atypically dilated pupils
Enjoying the Golden Years More
Early identification and intervention for a substance use disorder reduces the opportunity that an addiction will worsen and adversely affect someone’s health, well-being and overall quality of life. At Vista Taos, we can help an addicted loved one at our peaceful rehab center in New Mexico, beginning with medical detox and supplementing with holistic treatment. Reach out to us today to learn more about our full range of programs and amenities and what we treat.