The topic of drug abuse is often one that is associated with youth. However, substance abuse among America’s aging population is a growing concern. In fact, nearly 22 percent of senior citizens confess that they drink each and every day. Many of the elderly are also taking a prescription medication of sorts, a potentially lethal combination that’s certainly cause for alarm.
Recent figures show that alcohol abuse rates for those over age 65 hover around 17 percent. Senior substance abuse may stem from a variety of life circumstances. The following can all be triggers in the absence of proper coping skills:
- Death of a spouse
- Lack of purpose after retirement
- Sleep problems
- Chronic illness
According to information published in the journal Geriatrics, the problem only stands to get worse. By 2020, elderly figures for abuse are expected to be twice what they are now due to a combination of lifestyle and attitude differences and the increasing number of baby boomers entering retirement.
But alcohol isn’t the only culprit. According to the Geriatrics report, prescription drugs are at high risk of abuse among the elderly – more so than in generations past, especially if alcohol is involved.
Not surprisingly, seniors aren’t likely to be peddling on the streets for drugs. Instead, their sources are closer to home – namely well-meaning family or friends who share medications or doctors who fail to realize the potential for misuse. Commonly abused prescription drugs by the aged include benzodiazepines and opiates. “Benzos” such as Valium and Xanax are frequently prescribed for depression and anxiety, while opiates like OxyContin and Percocet are used to treat ongoing pain.
A caretaker who suspects abuse should contact the individual’s healthcare provider. Some common warning signs of abuse are:
- Irritability or appearing disoriented
- Sudden changes in sleep, eating habits, or weight
- Depression or loss of interest in things once important
- Falls or unusual bruising
At FamilyGuidanceCenter, we understand that mental health plays an integral role in the overall picture of wellness. That’s why our treatment program offers a coordinated care approach that includes attention by mental health experts as well as physicians and other team members. With assistance from FamilyGuidanceCenter, it’s possible to enjoy a rewarding life, regardless of age. Visit our website for more information about local treatment plans.