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Senior Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Older Adults and Drinking

Drinking is one of the biggest substance abuse problems among elderly adults. While drug abuse rates typically taper off with age, a lot of older adults engage in alcohol abuse.

For over a decade, alcoholism and drug dependence rates have increased among people over age 60. According to a 2017 survey, 20% of people aged 69-64 and 11% over 65 binge drink.

As more older adults seek treatment for drugs or alcohol, addiction treatment centers are now offering programs designed especially for this demographic.

So what are the effects of alcoholism and substance abuse on older people? Why do senior citizens abuse alcohol and what is the best treatment program for people in that age group?

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Alcohol and Drug Abuse Among Seniors

In the past, illicit drug use was rare among older adults. In recent years, drug abuse has become more common in that age group. The reason:  more baby boomers are aging into the senior category. 

Boomers grew up in a time when illicit drugs were commonplace. Boomers who’ve engaged in substance abuse nonstop have carried drug addiction into their old age.

As people age, their reasons for using drugs or alcohol often differ from the typical younger person. While people in their teens, twenties and thirties often drink and use drugs for recreational purposes, older people often do so to cope with depression or chronic pain.

Among the elderly, alcoholism is more common than drug abuse because alcohol is available everywhere. Consequently, alcohol rehab programs have witnessed an influx of older patients.

Prescription drug abuse is also common in the over-60 age group. Older people often overuse prescription drugs such as painkillers. As the body grows tolerant and more dependent on higher dosage levels, prescription drugs can devastate the user’s physical health.

Why do Older Adults Abuse Alcohol?

Older people seeking addiction treatment for alcohol abuse come to rehab centers with all sorts of problems. The most common issues include:

  • Grief – Older people often drink when they’re dealing with the loss of loved ones. 
  • Depression – As people age, they often ponder the meaning of life and feel disillusioned. Some use alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  • Loneliness – Older people often lack the friends or peer groups they once had and drink to cope with loneliness.
  • Mental illness – Alcohol abuse can negatively impact mental health and vice versa.
  • Anxiety disorders – Elderly individuals with declining emotional states might drink to cope with issues like anxiety.

Older women account for more cases of alcohol abuse among the elderly. Women are likely to outlive their partners and drink to cope with grief. The female body has a lower tolerance for alcohol.

Effects of Alcohol Addiction on Elderly Adults

As older adults struggle with alcoholism and addictions to illicit drugs and psychoactive medications, they risk all sorts of mental and physical health problems. The risks of elderly drug and alcohol abuse include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver problems
  • Memory problems
  • Mental health disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Osteoporosis

The correlation between substance abuse and mental health is strong. Among people who suffer from mental illness, 50% have struggled with substance abuse. The physical and mental health consequences can also be exacerbated by the use of multiple medications.

Substance Abuse Treatment for Seniors

For senior citizens that struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, the following programs are offered at most American addiction centers:

  • Detox – The first few days as drugs and alcohol clear the body. Must be done under the supervision of rehab health care providers.
  • Residential treatment – Where patients stay at a rehab center for 30-90 days. Includes therapy, healthy eating, activities and support groups.
  • Outpatient treatment – The same features as residential, but the patient sleeps at home and comes in during the day for treatment.

When people seek treatment, they can also explore additional treatment options like experiential therapy. During detox, clinical staff may administer addiction medicine to help patients overcome withdrawal symptoms.

How Do Family Members Cope?

Alcohol abuse is hard on the loved ones of people battling addiction. Oftentimes, people don’t know how to communicate with that friend or family member who struggles with drugs or alcohol.

To help mend the gap, most American addiction centers offer family therapy. This helps the children and grandchildren of addicted seniors help their loved ones through recovery. This also helps families resume normalcy once the patient overcomes his/her substance use disorder and finishes treatment.

Wellness Activities for Sober Senior Citizens

In alcohol rehab, counselors help patients overcome their physical dependence on drugs and alcohol with wellness exercises. Some of these treatment practices include:

  • Physical therapy – This helps the elderly patient deal with the chronic pain that led to an overuse of prescription medications.
  • Equine therapy – Interaction with horses.
  • Art therapy – The older patient cultivates a new hobby (drawing, painting).

When seeking substance abuse treatment for an older loved one, look for a treatment provider who offers a good array of wellness therapy.

Treatment Centers for Elderly Individuals

As substance abuse among older adults increases, American addiction centers are now offering more treatment programs that cater to the needs of this age group. The best treatment centers conduct their practices in accordance with the Mental Health Services Administration.

If you have an older relative with a drug or alcohol problem, explore the addiction treatment services in your area. Throughout the US, treatment providers offer a private and convenient solution for older adults struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. Act now before it becomes a medical emergency.

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

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