Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

Detecting Addiction Problems in Elderly Patients

Detecting Addiction Problems in Elderly PatientsAddiction problems in elderly patients are somewhat common, and professionals expect an increase in substance abuse and addiction rates among individuals over the age of 60. According to recent census data, around 35 million Americans are over the age of 65, and substance abuse affects almost 17 percent of this population. By 2020, the rate of elderly people with substance abuse problems is expected to double. It behooves you to know the signs of addiction to recognize drug abuse in yourself or an elderly loved one.

Drug Abuse Problems for Elderly People

The baby-boomer generation is now entering their 60’s, and this generation is more accepting of alcohol and drug use for both recreational means and to self-medicate other problems. Elderly people experience more physical and mental health problems, and as a result they have higher risks for drug and alcohol abuse to alleviate symptoms. The general population is exposed to many drugs to treat every health issue, and elderly patients are no exception since their declining health puts them in the doctor’s office quite often. Elderly patients are more sensitive to the effects of drugs and alcohol, making drug dependence a major risk even when they only abuse small amounts. Elderly patients who take multiple prescriptions can easily develop drug dependence and addition, and these issues can aggravate or lead to further health problems.

In addition, elderly individuals have high risks for addiction problems due to other factors, such as losing a loved one, loneliness, financial stress or pessimism about getting older. All of these issues make the elderly population prone to drug abuse, which can be dangerous.

Warning Signs of Addiction in Elderly Patients

The following warning signs indicate addiction problems in elderly patients:

  • Garbled speech
  • Overly affectionate behavior
  • A decrease in appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Complaints of sleep difficulties
  • Recurring health complaints lacking medical issues or medical diagnosis
  • Severe absentmindedness
  • Blackouts or major memory impairment unrelated to a medical condition
  • Social withdrawal
  • Sadness, hopelessness and feelings of despair
  • Apprehension
  • Intense mood swings
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Hiding pills, not following a prescription or drug use schedule and inconsistent use patterns
  • Drinking alone
  • “Losing” prescriptions, attempting to get prescriptions from multiple doctors and inventing false symptoms of exaggerating symptoms to get more prescriptions

If you notice an elderly loved one exudes these signs, then she may be addicted.

How to Help an Elderly Drug Addict

If you are concerned that an elderly individual struggles with addiction, then call our toll-free helpline to speak with an addiction counselor. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and to discuss addiction treatment options. Many specialized treatment opportunities cater to the unique needs of elderly people, so if you want to learn more about these services, call and speak with an addiction counselor today. They can help you and your loved ones defeat addiction.

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