Elderly Addiction Treated
Twin Rivers Rehabilitation Centre has much experience in dealing with addicts and alcoholics of all ages, and it is a place of refuge for those who find themselves trapped in alcohol and drug addiction. Not will you only find hope, but you will also find friends and others who struggle with the same problems, making you feel less alone.
Addiction is often associated with a younger crowd of people. In most rehabs, you enter you don’t find an older population of addicts. But the truth is addiction has no age preference. It targets us all. Addiction is often underestimated and under-diagnosed among people 65 and up, which generally prevents them from getting the help they need.
A quick visit to the doctor may overlook indications of addiction in the elderly because substance abuse in the elderly can mimic symptoms such as diabetes, dementia, depression or anxiety.
Often times an addict can remain clean and sober for the better part of their life, but then find himself or herself in triggering situations that bring back addictive behaviours. Some of these could be health-related or life-changing events that take an emotional toll.
Triggers that can potentially cause alcohol or drug addiction in the elderly include:
- Going into retirement and feeling that there is less of a purpose in life.
- Loss of a spouse due to illness, a family member, close friends or even a pet.
- Financial strains, or loss of a permanent income.
- Being placed in a nursery or retirement home.
- Conflicts within families.
- Physical health decline, as the body gets older or having to endure illnesses or major surgeries.
- Mental decline due to depression or memory loss.
- Drinking can fill idle hours of loneliness.
The elderly are more susceptible to the deteriorating effects of substance abuse, and therefor alcohol and drug abuse are far more dangerous. Medically it has been proven that those over the age of 65 have a lesser ability to cope and metabolize alcohol and drugs, Not only that, but they also have an increased brain sensitivity to alcohol and drugs.
Many elderly patients are often treated with benzodiazepines in order to treat pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and generously prescribed.
It is normal for the elderly to find themselves deteriorating in terms of physical and mental health. Addiction may be hard to recognise in within this demographic, however, if you are close to someone who is aging you should be able to recognise signs that are not normal to ageing.
Signs of drug and alcohol abuse may include the following:
- Unusual memory problems.
- Difficulty in sleeping, or unusual sleeping habits.
- Bruises that may come from losing balance and that are unexplainable.
- Depression, sadness and irritability, or sudden highs.
- Lack of appetite.
- Failing to bath and letting go of general hygiene.
- Losing touch with loved ones.
- A lack of interest in life-giving activities.
Should you suspect a loved one is caught in addiction you need to find them suitable help. Never think that a loved one is too old to be treated for addiction.
As is recommended with all addiction programs medical detoxification is of vital importance and a doctor will need to look at co-occurring conditions, such as depression and other mental disorders. But it cannot be stressed enough that a professional needs to assess the situation.
There is a huge group of older alcoholics and addicts who have abstained from the abuse of substances who are there to support one another at groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous. You are never too old to turn your life around and to find support and new friendships within such groups.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process