Why Are Older Americans More At Risk for Alcohol, Drug Abuse?
The phrase older and wiser suggests that as a person ages they learn a lot about how to deal with life. Experience is a profound teacher. However, it’s also true that as a person enters their golden years they are entering new territory. The retirement years are full of all kinds of changes and challenges. Sometimes there are so many of them that seniors are left scrambling for a way to cope.
Older People And Life Challenges That Effect Drug Abuse
The American Geriatrics Society reports that older adults may be more apt than others to form a substance addiction by virtue of the many life challenges they encounter. Loneliness, grief, lack of purpose, boredom and chronic pain confront seniors with full force. As many as 20 percent of senior citizens msuse or abuse their prescription drugs or alcohol.
Alcohol – Most Abused Substance By Seniors
The substance most often abused by seniors is alcohol, with 60 percent of addiction treatment admittances for older adults relating to alcohol use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), 5.5 million seniors struggle with an alcohol use problem. This is in part because alcohol is a socially acceptable mode of self-medication.
But for seniors, drinking too much alcohol can have serious consequences. The truth is that alcohol affects older bodies more than younger ones. The senior’s body is slowing down in every way, including metabolism. That means that alcohol is processed much more slowly in an older person’s body. Because of this the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that adults age 65 or above consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
Older People Abusing Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs are another source of potential abuse for seniors. To begin with, senior citizens are prescribed more medication than any other age group of Americans. But just as with alcohol, medications are also metabolized more slowly by older bodies.
Sedatives (barbiturates, diazepam, chlordiazepoxide) used to help older patients sleep are highly addictive. These medications tend to store up in fat deposits which make their effects even longer-lasting in older bodies which typically carry more fat. This is no small problem with the diazepam drug Valium prescribed to 100,000 older Americans annually.
Seniors Abusing Illegal Substances At A Greater Rate?
More people over age 50 are using illegal, illicit drugs. SAMHSA reports that treatment admittances for patients over 50 addicted to illegal drugs doubled and has continued to rise.
The good news in all of this is that when addiction forms late in life, with intervention and treatment there is hope for recovery.
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