5 Surprising Facts About Substance Abuse in Older Adults

Statistics about Substance Use in Older Adults

While many believe that individuals grow up and grow out of substance abuse, the reality is that substance abuse in older adults is prominent. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), close to 1 million adults over the age of 65 struggle with substance use disorder (SUD). For these individuals, treatment is necessary to manage their substance abuse problems. Below are five surprising facts about substance abuse in older adults to clarify the issue.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

Alcohol and Drugs Affect Older Adults Differently 

As you age, your body metabolizes drugs and alcohol differently. Additionally, your social circles and lifestyle changes can all affect how your body handles substances of abuse. Studies have proven that drugs and alcohol can have detrimental effects on the aging brain and become more sensitive to substances. 

Older individuals, whether they abuse substances or not, are more vulnerable to conditions such as:

  • Mood disorders
  • Memory problems
  • Heart complications
  • Lung complications

The use of drugs and alcohol can worsen these problems. With substance abuse in older adults a growing problem across the nation, there need to be resources available to get into treatment programs for addiction

Older Adults Use More Prescription Drugs 

Our bodies begin to slow down and change as we get older, and more health complications tend to arise because of this. Unfortunately, for pain management, many older adults turn to opioids. Chronic conditions associated with aging can mean individuals have been prescribed prescription drugs to help manage their ailments. When these individuals are on prescription drugs but are also abusing drugs and alcohol, it can be a perilous combination that can have serious detrimental health effects. 

According to a study completed in 2019, of patients aged 50 and older, “…more than 25% who misuse prescription opioids or benzodiazepines expressed suicidal ideation, compared to 2% who do not use them.”

Older Adults Use More Opioid Pain Pills 

Opioids can be prescribed to individuals who struggle with ongoing pain, and older individuals tend to struggle with chronic pain. These drugs are highly addictive and habit-forming, and once an individual has taken them for even a short period, they can become dependent on them. This means that they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not have a steady dose of the drug circulating throughout their body.

“Between 4-9% of adults age 65 or older use prescription opioid medications for pain relief.” Unfortunately, many of these individuals discover that they cannot stop taking opioids because they will begin to experience adverse withdrawal symptoms. 

Marijuana Use Is On the Rise in Older Adults

Marijuana drug abuse is growing to be a preferred substance in older adults. While marijuana can be prescribed on a legal, medical marijuana basis, it still holds the capacity for dependency and addiction. Some of the common risks of abusing marijuana include:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Depression
  • Deteriorated motor skills
  • Cognitive impairment 
  • Respiratory issues
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Memory loss

Older Adults Report More High-Risk Drinking 

While alcohol is not an illicit drug, it is legal and one of the most highly abused substances in the nation. Substance abuse in older adults, especially when it comes to alcohol abuse, is an issue that can have serious repercussions. 

Alcohol use disorders are a growing threat in the elderly population. It’s essential to look out for signs of substance abuse so the individual can get the necessary care provided to them. Alcoholism and drug abuse can have severe and lasting effects, including memory loss in adults age 65 and older. 

Substance Abuse Treatment for Older Adults

Substance abuse in older adults is a problem that needs a solution. It can often be swept under the rug because drug and alcohol abuse is often associated with the younger generation. There are several different types of substance abuse treatment options for those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse problems. 

WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab offers addiction treatment programs for those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, including programs for co-occurring disorders, binge drinking, alcohol misuse and abuse, and the abuse of prescription medications. Get in touch with the intake team today to learn more about substance abuse and mental health services. We can provide you with the information and tools you need to assist you in overcoming your alcohol misuse, illegal drug use, or substance use disorders today.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.