Person waiting at an office to speak with a therapist about substance abuse in older adults

The Impact of Substance Abuse on Older Adults

Substance abuse can be especially dangerous for older adults, but many can hide their struggles with drugs or alcohol. Seniors may not see family members as often, and if they do not interact with their peers frequently, their substance use may go undetected for quite some time. This can lead to serious health complications and social problems like isolation and loneliness. However, there are ways to help an older adult struggling with addiction. It is essential to recognize the signs of substance abuse in the elderly so you can get them help if necessary.

Seeing a parent or grandparent stuck in the grip of addiction can be heartbreaking. But there is hope—call Promises Brazos Valley at 979.426.0086 to discuss our residential treatment options for seniors with substance use disorders.

What Is the Impact of Substance Abuse on Older Adults?

The consequences of drug and alcohol abuse in older adults can be severe. Alcohol-related fatalities are one of the leading causes of death among older adults. And men are much more likely to die from an alcohol-related cause, such as alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Alcohol-related brain damage is also more common in seniors. The most common signs of this type of impairment include:

  • Confusion and memory loss, which may be mistaken for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Slurred speech, which can make it hard to communicate with others or understand what they are saying
  • Lack of balance, such as tripping over things, which could lead to falls that cause serious injuries like broken bones or head trauma

Some older adults may also experience moodiness, irritability, and depression, which may be excused as typical personality changes accompanying aging.

What Stops Seniors from Seeking Help for Addiction?

Sadly, many older adults do not believe they can stop drinking or using drugs. They may feel that their addiction is too strong or that it will be too hard for them to quit. And in some cases, they may not even realize they have a problem. A few other reasons seniors may not seek help for addiction are:

  • They do not know where or how to get help.
  • The cost of treatment is not within their budget.
  • They have health issues that make it challenging to go into residential treatment.
  • They do not have reliable transportation to the facility for treatment sessions.

Recognizing when an older adult is dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol is the first step toward helping them. From there, they will need assistance finding an addiction treatment program to accommodate their needs. 

Addressing Substance Abuse in the Elderly

The high prevalence of substance use disorders among older adults suggests there is significant room for improvement in the:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse screening
  • Addiction diagnosis
  • Treatment geared toward seniors

One of the primary challenges of detecting substance abuse in older adults is that some age-related health conditions have symptoms similar to drug or alcohol addiction. For example, slurred speech or confusion could be mistaken for memory disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. The best way to respond to any noticeable changes in older adults is to encourage them to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional. This will help determine the root cause—whether it is a medical condition, mental illness, or substance use disorder.

Find Residential Treatment for Older Adults at Promises Brazos Valley

Seniors who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction need support and treatment that accounts for their unique recovery needs. Promises Brazos Valley customizes addiction treatment programs so that you or your loved one can overcome the usual barriers to treatment. Contact Promises Brazos Valley today at 979.426.0086 to learn more. 

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