Why Do Seniors Struggle with Substance Abuse so Often?

Seniors Struggle with Substance Abuse

Why Do Seniors Struggle with Substance Abuse so Often?

The majority of the “Baby Boom” generation has now reached their 60s and 70s. The fact that seniors struggle with substance abuse has been neglected and overlooked for decades. However, today, it is coming to light. Baby Boomers are people who were born between 1946 and 1964. And this generation is facing multiple issues associated with alcohol and drug abuse.

Why Seniors Struggle with Substance Abuse

Since the seniors of today grew up in the era of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll,” they view drugs and alcohol in somewhat of a different manner than even younger generations do today. They may see drugs or alcohol as a way to contend with depression and loneliness that frequently accompanies older age. Many of their family members and friends may have passed away at this point, and they feel isolated from others.

Other factors that might contribute to substance abuse later in life could be:

  • Retirement
  • Financial strains
  • Relocation
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • A physical or emotional decline in health
  • Boredom

Although many seniors have done drugs and drank alcohol their entire adult lives, others only start at an older age. Many of the above-listed reasons contribute to that fact. Seniors who only drank occasionally or socially may begin drinking heavily due to a life-changing experience.

Dangers of Substance Abuse in Seniors

As people age, their bodies don’t metabolize substances as fast as they did when they were younger. The brain of an older individual is more sensitive to the effects of drugs or alcohol. This sensitivity makes it dangerous to drink alcohol or take drugs, even if there is no addiction present.

Drinking alcohol and taking prescribed medications can produce more falls among seniors resulting in hospital emergency department visits. Seniors who abuse their prescription drugs, or use illicit drugs for that matter, will experience overdoses because their body no longer metabolizes the drugs as quickly as when they were younger.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration):

“Although the percentage of people with substance use disorder (SUD) reflects the decline in use as people age, more than 1 million individuals aged 65 or older (“older adults“) had an SUD in 2014, including 978,000 older adults with an alcohol use disorder and 161,000 with an illicit drug use disorder.”

Is Substance Abuse Among Seniors Ignored?

In some cases, family members may ignore substance abuse among their senior family members. They may feel that they are near the end of their lives anyway, so if alcohol or drugs help them to cope, so be it. In other cases, family members may not realize that their loved one is struggling with substance abuse. If they don’t visit or talk to them very often, it can go overlooked.

In many cases, as seniors struggle with substance abuse, family members and friends attribute it to common issues related to aging. After all, confusion and forgetfulness are typical signs of aging. Right? Someone may not think about the fact that the senior forgets something or gets confused about something because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But this is possible.

We need to pay closer attention to our senior loved ones. It is not a disgrace to have an elderly loved one who needs treatment for substance abuse. There are addiction treatment centers that can design a treatment plan tailor-made for your loved one’s needs and preferences. Don’t let them continue to struggle alone. Get them the help that they so deserve. Aging is not an easy process.

Contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services for Help

To learn more about treatment programs that we offer for alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, or for more information on how seniors struggle with substance abuse, contact one of our representatives. They can answer any questions you may have about a treatment program which we can design for your loved one. Make that call now.


Samhsa.govA Day in the Life of Older Adults: Substance Use Facts

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