Reports are coming in that the rate of drug and alcohol addiction among older adults is on the rise, and family members and caregivers are having a hard time figuring out how to deal with the problem. Prescription drug addiction and alcoholism are the biggest culprits for this age group due to the easy access that most have to both. Family members are concerned as they watch their loved ones slip into addiction and miss out on interactions with grandchildren and the enjoyment that should characterize the “golden years” of life.
Why Seniors Are Abusing Drugs and Alcohol
There are a number of different reasons why older adults are abusing prescription drugs and alcohol or developing addictions. Everyone is different, but some of the most common reasons include:
- Depression. As friends and families pass away and extended family scatter across the country, it can be lonely to get older in this country.
- Easy access. It’s not difficult for a senior adult to get prescription painkillers. It is expected that old age brings with it a variety of ailments and these medications are expected.
- Boredom. The issue of passing friends and family means that some seniors feel that their schedules are full of nothing but TV and card games.
- Pain. Even if prescription drug addiction or alcoholism is an issue, it doesn’t mean that pain isn’t as well. Many older adults prefer to live without the pain even if it means other problems.
The Problem with Identifying and Treating Senior Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Many older adults grew up during a time when free experimentation with substances was common but the need for treatment was a family issue that should be kept quiet. Few want to admit that they are having a problem with drug and alcohol addiction, and deny it when concerned family members attempt to intervene. Irritated at the intrusion and scared of losing their independence, many older people would prefer to be left alone on the matter.
The fact that they spend so much time alone if they live independently creates its own issues with nailing down a diagnosis. Family members may not know whether a failing memory or advancing age are to blame for the changes they see in their loved ones or if it is addiction that is causing the mood swings, confusion and other issues. In the case of prescription drug addiction, it can be hard to tell when someone is overmedicated when they are living with chronic pain due to multiple ailments and have no interest in admitting to addiction.
Fighting Senior Drug and Alcohol Addiction
How do we fight a problem that is so hard to nail down? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) projects that the number of senior adults living with alcohol and drug dependence issues will increase by 150 percent by the year 2020. What do you think should be done to handle the situation?