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Substance Abuse in Older Adults

Substance Abuse in Older Adults

With age, illicit drug abuse tends to decrease. This is the case for several reasons—the distribution and sale of illegal substances has a demographic, that being those in their late teens to mid-twenties. Socially speaking, the culture of being young and independent plays heavily into substance abuse, being a prominent fixture of college partying or self-medicative application. That being said, any behaviors learned and encouraged at this age are more likely to persist into adulthood, and it’s evident that substance abuse in older adults tends to have roots in prior use in youth.

Having previously abused drugs in college isn’t the only reason someone may be doing so later in life. There are a variety of causes that are important to address when seeking treatment. A more complete understanding of how substance abuse has played a role in one’s life can inform which approaches to recovery can be most effective. At Greater Boston Addiction Centers, we take into account every facet of what makes addiction a struggle and address each one in a personally meaningful way. Call us today at 877.920.6583 and learn more about our personalized approach to substance abuse treatment in Boston.

How Are Older Adults Impacted by Substance Abuse?

Older adults tend to deal with substance abuse less overall, but the way in which it occurs changes with age. The representation of adults 65 and over seeking aid in substance use disorder treatment facilities has been steadily increasing over time. This is representative of a larger problem, one in which drug usage among the age group has risen—but why?

Memory loss can be a factor in accidental drug misuse. In extreme cases, forgetting how many drugs have been taken in a day can lead to a potential overdose. Having a history of drug use can also contribute negatively. Abusing drugs as a social adhesive during parties or as a mechanism for treating anxiety can affect the perception of drugs as less harmful. This outlook may carry into adulthood and can serve as a way to justify or minimize the perceived risk of abusing prescription medications.

Seniors and Prescription Drugs

A significant amount of the rising problem has to do with prescription medication, aging, and the way that the two interact. With age comes physical and behavioral changes that lend themselves to substance abuse. For example, chronic pain or other health conditions are much more prevalent among seniors. As a result, many receive prescription medications for their ailments, some of which have a high abuse potential. The conditions that most commonly lead to substance abuse in older adults are:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

Opioids account for almost a tenth of all prescription pain relief for adults over 65. The abuse potential for opioids is higher than the majority of similar painkillers, and pharmacists try to minimize how frequently it’s given out. Despite that, opioids are a major starting point for substance abuse, with some eventually switching over to heroin or other illicit opioids.

It’s not just opioids that adults 65 and over struggle with. Marijuana isn’t prescribed as often, but ongoing use can lead to respiratory problems. Additionally, it may interact with other prescription drugs in ways that can be harmful. Alcohol and nicotine are never prescribed but are common means of self-medicating nonetheless.

Substance Abuse Treatment at Any Age at Greater Boston Addiction Centers

Substance use disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age or background. While it’s true that substance use is a problem unto itself, it’s important to keep in mind that another problem is never too far removed. Chronic pain, depression, and awareness of mortality are all problems facing older adults. It’s essential that, when treating substance use disorders, these factors be taken into account.

At Greater Boston Addiction Centers, we understand that substance abuse in older adults is no different. It can take a major toll on the way you live your life. With each passing day, it gets harder to unlearn damaging habits, so time is of the essence. Call us today at 877.920.6583 to learn more about our substance abuse treatment program, as well as the options you’ll have for treatment. You can also fill out our online contact form and let us get back to you.