With the dramatic surge in drug overdoses and deaths in the United States, the issue of drug addiction has taken center stage in regards to its attention in both the news and social media. When you ask many Americans about the spectre of drug abuse and addiction, the focus of concern is on our nation’s young people and adults. What is important to realize, however, is that drug addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives no matter what the age.

In fact, the nation’s senior citizens are a population which is extremely vulnerable to substance abuse. Americans aged 65 and older comprise approximately 13 percent of the country’s population, and they consume 40% of prescription drugs and 35% of all over the counter drugs. Drug addiction is difficult to detect in elderly populations because the signs and symptoms of abuse often get confused with the aging process.

If those who are elderly become addicted to drugs, the consequences can be dire. With age, the liver becomes less efficient at filtering out medications from the body. Because of this slowed drug metabolism, an older person may get addicted — or suffer serious side effects — at lower doses than a younger person would. These side effects include falls that can lead to significant health complication and an early death.

For those senior citizens who struggle with substance abuse, finding age-specific drug treatment programs that meet the unique and specific needs of this population is a must. If you are a senior citizen who is struggling with a drug addiction or are the son or daughter of an elderly parent who has a substance abuse issue, call the addiction professionals at Guardian Recovery Network today.

How Prevalent is Substance Abuse Among the Elderly?

It is estimated that 35 million people in the United States are over the age of 65. Substance abuse affects approximately 17 percent of this population. By the year 2020, it is estimated that nearly 2.7 million Americans in this age group will struggle with a substance abuse issue. For many senior citizens, the substances that are of most concern are prescription medications.

Elderly adults commonly take two types of prescription medicines that have a high potential for addiction. These medications are opioids such as Oxycontin and Percocet and benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax. Perhaps most shocking is the number of prescriptions that senior citizens have at one time. According to information from the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, individuals 65 to 69 years old take nearly 14 prescriptions per year on average, and individuals aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year.

elderly man looking at his prescription bottles

Obstacles in Getting the Elderly To Drug Treatment

When someone who is elderly is struggling with substance abuse, finding age-specific treatment in a timely manner is paramount. However, there are barriers that are present that must be acknowledged. As already stated, the signs and symptoms of drug abuse in the elderly is often hard to discern because the manifestation of these symptoms are similar to the normal aging process. Secondly, a substantial part of the elderly population live alone and are often isolated from family and friends.

Additionally, many who are elderly have a substantial degree of hesitation in accepting drug treatment. People in this demographic grew up during a time when drug abuse was considered a moral failing and people of this generation do not want to air any of their “dirty laundry”. Fortunately, if senior citizens who are addicted to substances find age-specific treatment, they have high motivation to successfully complete treatment.

Benefits of Age-Specific Treatment for Seniors

When those who elderly who struggle with substance abuse find quality age-specific treatment, they will experience numerous benefits that will help them build a solid foundation for lasting recovery.

Appropriate Medical Detox Services

No matter what the age, medical detoxification is a critical first step in the recovery process. During detox, experienced treatment staff utilize various interventions to help minimize withdrawal symptoms and help clients become stable and substance-free. For senior citizens, the detox process must be modified due to the aging process, liver functioning and metabolism. In an age-specific drug treatment center, staff will utilize the appropriate measures and emphasize consistent medical care around the clock to ensure that elderly patients get the care they need as they detox.

Case Management Services

Another benefit of age-specific treatment for the elderly is that many facilities that have these programs have case management services specifically designed for senior populations. Having these services are important because elderly individuals often lack the social support that is needed to help them continue recovering after they complete treatment. Such case management services should have the capability of linking patients to appropriate psychiatric, medical, and social resources following their release.

elderly group in counseling

Building of Social Networks and Support

An additional benefit of age-specific treatment for senior citizens is the building of a more extensive social network for elderly clients. Many who are elderly face isolation and loneliness due to retirement or a death of a spouse or other loved one. Many age-specific drug treatment programs include a wide variety of group activities and social functions that allow clients to interact with each other and form strong bonds. When those bonds are formed, the chances those who are elderly will return to drugs as a coping mechanism are significantly reduced.

Age Appropriate Treatment Programs

Age-specific drug treatment programs feature programs and services that are age-appropriate and allow clients to process and assimilate information at their own pace. These programs emphasize coping skills that focus on dealing with loss, grief and depression in a healthy manner. These issues often lead those who are elderly into substance abuse in the first place.

Call Guardian Recovery Network and Learn More About Our Age-Specific Treatment Programs in Florida

For those who are elderly, the “golden years” should be filled with happiness and joy and not be marred by drug addiction. As one of the premier drug treatment facilities in the state of Florida, Guardian Recovery Network has created age-specific drug treatment programs that are effective and proven to work.

Call us today!