Drug abuse among the elderly is a disturbing problem – one that continues to worsen as the Baby Boomer generation approaches old age. Because many younger family members and friends are still not aware of the prevalence of elderly drug abuse, the problem often goes unnoticed and untreated.
Causes of Elderly Drug Abuse
There are a number of causes of drug abuse among the older generation, one of which is loneliness. Life changes such as retirement, loss of close loved ones, and the inability to be active in society cause many elderly individuals to feel lonely. Seniors may suffer from depression, anxiety, or insomnia because of the changes they experience later in life.
For many people, doctors prescribe medications to ease these symptoms. Sometimes older individuals mistakenly overuse their prescription medications, while other times the abuse is intentional. Either way, prescription drugs can be addicting, and even someone well along in years can find themselves unable to stop taking the pills.
Creating Awareness for the Problem
Elderly individuals who are addicted to drugs are often embarrassed about the situation and hide their drug abuse from their family. When family members do discover the drug abuse, they are usually very surprised. In order to prevent elderly drug abuse from continuing to be a problem, family members must be aware of the warning signs.
The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment published a list of signals that may indicate an alcohol or medication – related problem in the elderly:
- Memory trouble after having a drink or taking a medication
- Loss of coordination (walking unsteadily, frequent falls)
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Unexplained bruises
- Being unsure of themselves
- Irritability, sadness, depression
- Unexplained chronic pain
- Changes in eating habits
- Wanting to stay alone much of the time
- Failing to bathe or keep clean
- Having trouble concentrating
- Difficulty staying in touch with family or friends
- Lack of interest in usual activities
Recovery is possible for seniors. Anyone who suspects their elderly loved one has a drug abuse problem should get help for the person right away.