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2 Common Addiction Problems in the Elderly

For many people, the thought of entering the later stages of life can bring feelings of joy. Becoming a senior citizen generally increases in free time, as jobs are ended after long and often stressful careers. This free time can be the opportunity to develop interesting pastimes and hobbies that spark the imagination, such as tracing the family history, or taking part in arts and crafts sessions in the local community. However, most people do not associate problems relating to addiction with senior citizens. It is a fact that around 19.3% of the elderly in America have used illicit substances in their lifetimes. For some, this was simply a case of experimenting with drugs in their youth. However, for other elderly people, addiction is a problem that characterizes their later years and can dramatically reduce their standards of living. This article explores some of the reasons why the elderly become addicted and describes two types of addiction that they may have.

Why Do the Elderly Become Addicted?

Addiction in the elderly can stem from a wide range of causes, but two of the most common reasons are emotional trauma and feelings of loneliness. Many elderly people find that, in later life, they lose their closest loved ones (often their partners) to ill health or simply old age. This can be devastating for a person who has spent most of their life living with a spouse and can result in the taking of alcohol or illicit drugs to cope with the pain of loss. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common in the elderly, especially if they find that they are living on their own and are a significant distance away from friends and family members. These feelings can also lead to the elderly taking drugs or alcohol to an excessive level to try to numb the feelings of loneliness. In these circumstances, it can be highly beneficial to relocate an elderly relative to an assisted living facility, such as assisted living Lancaster Ohio. In such premises, there will be a community of elderly people and social activities are often planned to allow senior citizens to spend time together and form friendships. This can often be an ideal way to remove feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Alcohol Abuse

It is estimated that around 11% of people aged 65 and over have problems relating to alcohol consumption. Binge drinking is a common form of alcohol misuse in the elderly and can be extremely detrimental to their health. Many senior citizens need to take regular medications for a variety of health problems that they may experience in later life. When these medications are combined with alcohol, it can lead to serious medical complications, such as liver damage, severe mood disorders, and problems with both short and long-term memory. The elderly generation typically falls into two groups when it comes to alcohol misuse. Some will have been heavy drinkers since their early adulthood and are simply refusing to stop in later life. Others may find that they develop alcohol problems in later life, without having had any previous issues with drinking.

Prescription Drugs

Many elderly people will be required to take regular medication on prescription to combat a range of health complaints or chronic illnesses. Senior citizens often take more pills than younger generations, which put the elderly at a greater risk of becoming addicted to them. Some types of medication are associated with an increased risk of developing an addiction because of taking them over an extended period. For example, pain medications, such as opioids, may be used to provide pain relief after an elderly person has suffered a fall or injury. These are often intended just for short-term use, but if a senior citizen becomes addicted to them, it can result in drug-seeking behavior to continue using the drug. In such cases, it can be beneficial to refer the person to a substance misuse centre, where they can get the help and support that they require to stop taking the drug.