Senior Citizen Substance Abuse: Signs, Statistics & Risks

Senior citizen substance abuse is a rapidly growing health problem in the United States. The abuse of cocaine, heroin, alcohol, opioids, and prescription drugs is often overlooked among loved ones and health care providers. At the same time, senior adults suffer severe health consequences that often lead to hospitalization.

If you or a loved one need a safe space to talk about and recover from substance abuse or addiction, contact Myrtle Beach Recovery to learn more about our recovery programs.

Key Statistics

The number of senior citizens in the United States will have doubled from 2010 to 2030. In the past, this would not have caused concern for loved ones, caregivers, and substance abuse treatment centers. However, the baby boom generation demonstrates higher rates of alcohol and other drug abuse than earlier generations. Some statistics that cause concern about this growing problem include:

  • 17% of senior adults over age 65 have abused prescription medications
  • About 30% of this same demographic currently receive a prescription drug
  • Almost 1 million senior citizens have a substance abuse disorder
  • Admissions to treatment facilities for substance abuse grew from 3.4% to 7.0% between 2000 and 2012, according to data reported in 2018
  • More than one out of four people over 50 who misuse prescription pain medication or sedatives have suicidal thoughts
  • The proportion of senior adults using heroin more than doubled between 2013 and 2015
  • The use of cannabis in the elderly rose from 0.4% in 2006-2007 to 2.9% in 2016
  • More than 10% of senior citizens binge drink

Signs of Substance Abuse

The increasing abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs has made it important to know the signs of drug abuse and addiction in the elderly. Recognizing the signs of substance abuse in a senior adult is complicated, because of certain behavior changes such as cognitive decline and other aging disorders. Although it is challenging, early detection of senior citizen substance abuse can help prevent damaging health effects. The signs vary but may include one or more of the following:

  • Isolating from others
  • Changing eating practices
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Confusion
  • Decline in personal grooming and hygiene
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired coordination and balance

Risks Factors

Some of the risk factors that people face when younger occur more often and intensely during the senior adult years. Some of the risk factors for substance abuse and addiction for senior citizens include:

  • Grieving the loss of a spouse or friends
  • Lack of a healthy form of dealing with the stress of life
  • Financial difficulties
  • Declining health
  • Changes in living arrangements
  • Multiple prescription drugs

The Dangers of Senior Citizen Substance Abuse

While drug abuse causes problems at any age, complications intensify among senior citizens. Reasons for this include diminished metabolism and increased sensitivity of major organs, including the brain, to drugs and alcohol. Abusing drugs worsens various common health conditions and can create a life-threatening situation for seniors. Some medical conditions worsened by drug abuse include:

  • Diabetes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Poor nutrition
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Congestive heart failure

Recovery Options

About ten percent of senior citizens admitted to the hospital are the result of alcohol and drug use. Fourteen percent of seniors admitted to emergency departments occur because of substance abuse. The drugs most commonly causing hospitalization include pain relievers, sedatives, alcohol, antidepressants, cocaine, and heroin. To protect the elderly from harm and hospitalization, it is best to pursue substance abuse recovery, which may include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Counseling
  • Family therapy
  • 12 Steps Program
  • Long- or short-term in-house rehab

Consider Myrtle Beach Recovery

If you are a senior or the loved one of a senior struggling with alcohol, prescription drugs, or another substance, Myrtle Beach Recovery can help. We offer several recovery options, that can help you live a happy and sober life.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you on your path to sobriety, happiness, and fulfillment.