Older man deep in thought

Do Seniors Struggle With Addiction?

Last Updated: Sep 14th 2022

Reviewed by North Jersey Recovery Center

Addiction in people over the age of 60 is on the rise. Even before the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020, a growing number of older Americans were already misusing alcohol and prescription drugs. Throw social isolation into the mix and fears of a deadly virus, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. Addiction is a disease that knows no bounds. While some will assume that addiction only affects teens, college-aged individuals, or the partying group of adults aged 21-35, the skyrocketing rates at which seniors are misusing substances should not be ignored. North Jersey Recovery Center will provide addiction treatment for adults in Fair Lawn NJ, helping them to get back on the road to recovery, especially for seniors who are succumbing to their addictions. Today, we’d like to bring more awareness to this issue by answering the question–Do seniors struggle with addiction?

Substance Abuse After Age 60

According to findings compiled by the NIAAA, alcohol and prescription drug abuse affected up to 17% of adults over the age of 60. A variety of these people are using harmful substances to manage a host of chronic psychiatric or health conditions. Substance abuse amongst seniors will typically fall into two camps:

  • The “survivor” who has been abusing substances (heavily drinking or using other drugs) for many years and has now reached age 65.
  • The “late-onset” user, who forms addictions later in life or after retirement.

Late-onset alcohol or drug abuse often starts when doctors prescribe medications to patients for treating a specific condition. In many cases, one of the first line treatments for managing pain, anxiety, and insomnia is a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines or benzos (e.g. Valium, Xanax, etc.) Benzos remain amongst the most dangerous prescription medications because of how highly addictive they are. What can muddy the waters here is that many older adults take a combination of different medications to treat various conditions. As a result, they may have a harder time keeping track of dosing/instructions. This type of polypharmacy (use of many medications at the same time) not only increases the chances of addiction, it’s also incredibly risky. Seniors are not as efficient at metabolizing drugs in the same ways that younger people can. Their risk for overdose is also much higher.

Why Are Seniors Susceptible To Addiction?

During someone’s senior years, a number of factors converge that will increase the chances of developing substance use disorders. The aging process is complicated, to say the least. The health concerns that plague seniors can cause much physical and emotional disarray. Couple that with personal life concerns such as feeling alone after retirement, struggling with the loss of a spouse or loved one, relocation to a nursing home, loss of purpose, or financial concerns. As exciting as the golden years can be, for many they are often fraught with uncontrolled bouts of stress and anxiety.

Which Substances Are Impacting The Older Adult & Elderly Population?

The 4 most common substances impacting the elderly and older adult population are alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, and marijuana. About 30% of adults over the age of 65 are prescribed some form of potentially harmful medication. Alcohol remains as the most commonly abused substance by older adults, with 65% of adults aged 65 and older reporting high-risk drinking behaviors. High-risk drinking is defined as exceeding daily guidelines on a weekly basis. 

A harrowing statistic from the NIAAA says that men and women 65 and older should consume no more than 1 drink daily and a maximum of 2 drinks on any one occasion. As we touched on earlier, another danger that exists for seniors dealing with addictions are the never-ending medical complications that they are experiencing. What does this mean? Well, their risk during a drug and alcohol detox may be greater than a young person. Their unrelated medical conditions need to be closely tended to when entering addiction treatment for adults in Fair Lawn NJ. It’s a lot to juggle, but achieving a life that is centered around sobriety will always remain a possibility. 

Spotting Addiction In Seniors

Before we discuss our addiction treatment for adults in Fair Lawn NJ, it’s important to discern how to spot the signs of addiction in your elderly loved ones. As many of us are aware, health problems both physical and mental, are exacerbated as we age. The older we are, the more likely we are to develop health-related concerns like cognitive impairments, heart disease, cancer, depression, and diabetes. Unfortunately, since people expect seniors to deal with memory issues and lack of energy or focus, substance use problems can be hard to identify. How will you know if a loved one has an addiction problem? Any of these warning signs that we’re about to mention should warrant immediate attention:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Erratic behavior
  • Lack of good hygiene
  • Unexplained bruising

Regardless of when the addiction began, there are treatment options available to help seniors overcome their struggles. The first step in this journey starts with recognizing the issue. 

North Jersey Recovery Center: Provider Of Addiction Treatment For Adults In Fair Lawn NJ

The alarming rate at which people aged 65 and older develop addictions to the above-mentioned substances is certainly cause for concern, and something that should not be taken lightly by medical professionals, addiction specialists, caretakers, and family members. If you or someone you know is struggling with late in life addiction issues, North Jersey Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us today to determine which of our treatment programs is right for you! Addiction treatment for adults in Fair Lawn NJ is within your reach!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by North Jersey Recovery Center