The Elder Addict
One of our nation’s fastest growing health problems that you’ve never heard of is alcohol and prescription drug abuse among adults age 60 and over. Until recently, you’d be hard pressed to find a mere mention of it in substance abuse or gerontological literature. But how can this be when the population of elders increases every year as the baby boomers reach their twilight years? According to the National Center for Biotechnology, there are a number of reasons.
Aside from limited research data and awareness, health care providers often mistake symptoms of substance abuse for other medical issues more prevalent in the elder population, such as dementia and depression. Ageism is another offender. The same compulsive behaviors that evoke alarm and concern from family members when it effects young adults or children isn’t there when it’s Grandma who just loves her wine. That coupled with the pervasive belief that treatment either isn’t available or would be a waste of healthcare resources on someone who may not be around very much longer. The latter may sound crass but in my experience as an interventionist for over a decade, I’ve heard it all.
In reality, there are many ways that the aged population is more vulnerable than their younger counterparts. Addiction speeds up the decline of physiological function, increases the risk of injury from a fall and leads to loneliness and depression, which can be life threatening to an older adult.
We love seniors at Breathe, and welcome the opportunity to help your loved one get back to the business of living. For Boomers who are more medically acute, consider Hanley at Origins in West Palm Beach and Caron Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania.