Substance Use Disorders in Older Adults

While there may be a valid explanation, it might also be a symptom of a drug or alcohol dependency that is being covered up. Older adults may start their addiction journey, especially alcohol addiction, in nursing homes. While these homes are thought of as a place where they should receive the safest care possible sometimes it is not the case.

  • That is perhaps the main reason for misdiagnosis and lack of treatment of seniors – these criteria are less relevant to them.
  • Identification and treatment of SUDs can be challenging, but is possible with the right knowledge and tools.
  • Addiction Resource is not a healthcare provider, nor does it claim to offer sound medical advice to anyone.
  • SUDs may be difficult to recognize and treat in older adults due to the presence of other psychiatric and general medical disorders.

Once it is discovered that it is an addiction-influenced memory loss, it is advised to take your loved ones to health recovery centers for addiction treatment and recovery. Although many individuals do not consider alcohol a drug, alcoholism is a common issue. It is sometimes called the “social drug” since it reduces anxiety, which helps people relax in social settings. The coca plant, a native of South America, is the source of this widely used illicit narcotic. Unfortunately, the medication is frequently combined with other substances like carbohydrates, flour, or dangerous drugs like opioids and amphetamines.

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As people age, they often experience increased chances of disability and chronic health conditions. However, when combined with alcohol, illicit substances, or addictive prescription drugs, they may metabolize differently in the body and cause adverse effects. In older adults, noticing addiction can become especially difficult, as some symptoms of drug abuse may mimic common signs of aging. Lehmann hopes further research on older adults with substance use disorders will lead to better-targeted screening methods and new models of care.

But it’s more common among this age group in the U.S. than almost anywhere else. It’s especially dangerous because their bodies don’t process drugs as quickly as when they were younger. SAMHSA National Helpline This 24/7, confidential hotline is available to people living with or who care about someone with a substance use disorder. If you’re worried a patient may be abusing or addicted to a substance, open the discussion by acknowledging your concern and engaging in motivational counseling. Older adults, or anyone with a substance use disorder, can feel a great deal of shame about their addiction. While there are limits about what your loved one’s doctor can disclose to you, you may want to consult a physician or substance abuse professional specializing in older adults.

How Does Substance Abuse Affect the Elderly

This belief can be internalized by older adults, leading them to avoid treatment. On the positive side, because individuals ages 65 and older are eligible for Medicare, insurance is less often a barrier to care. Some predisposing factors, such as age and knowledge, may be less favorable for older than younger adults. For example, due to feelings of isolation and shame (Kuerbis and Sacco, 2013), older adults often prefer treatment settings geared toward individuals of their same age, rather than settings with broader age ranges. Being married, of minority racial or ethnic ancestry, having attained less than a high school education, and earlier age of SUD onset also tend to lower treatment rates (Blanco et al., 2015). Lack of knowledge about services available can also impede treatment-seeking among older adults (Choi et al., 2014).

According to a 2016 analysis of national survey data,98 about 38 percent of older adults take at least one OTC medication; more than 63 percent take a dietary supplement (e.g., herbal products, vitamins). Among those who take prescription medications, 71.7 percent also take OTC medication or dietary supplements. Alcohol is the substance that older adults use and misuse most frequently. The 2019 NSDUH43 found that, in individuals ages 65 and older, an estimated 5.6 million (10.7 percent) engaged in past-month binge alcohol use and an estimated 1.5 million (2.8 percent) engaged in past-month heavy alcohol use. Illicit drug use is more common among current older adults than among previous generations of older adults.

Clinical Guidelines When Opioid Misuse in Older Adults Is Suspected

Rehab centers often offer specialized programs, such as addiction treatment for LGBTQ people, veterans, and young adults. Older adults, family members, and treatment providers have several substance abuse in older adults factors to consider regarding substance abuse. For instance, a person who misuses alcohol may experience issues with balance and coordination, but these issues may also increase as we age.

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Cocaine is often snorted, which immediately releases dopamine into the brain and produces a powerful but brief high. Prescription drugs, more specifically opioids and benzodiazepines, come in a close second. NSDUH is an annual survey that collects data by administering questionnaires to a representative sample of the population through face-to-face interviews at their place of residence. The combined 2007 and 2014 past year use data for this report are based on information obtained from 23,300 adults aged 65 or older. Once substance misuse becomes apparent, hope for recovery should always follow. A wide range of professionals and providers across a variety of settings share the responsibility to help older clients achieve recovery.

Diagnostic Issues in Working With Older Adults

Seniors are frequently unaware of the risks they are taking by misusing or abusing psychotropic substances. They may be taking these substances in the same doses or amounts they always did without realizing they now face a higher risk. That is why objective information about the dangers of alcohol or prescription drug use can be helpful.

  • Many centers also offer tailored therapy, support, and expertise to make a recovery go more smoothly.
  • For states where it’s legal to sell and purchase, you can walk into a cannabis shop or dispensary.
  • It is sometimes called the “social drug” since it reduces anxiety, which helps people relax in social settings.
  • Research shows different results on the prevalence of mood disorders among older adults.

Among those admitted, 38.8 percent were for alcohol, 33 percent for opioids, and 5 percent for cocaine (TEDS-2017, 2017). 8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care. He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture. Symptoms of cognitive decline and symptoms of substance misuse may be similar.