The Ultimate Guide to Recovering From Addiction for Seniors
The journey to recovery can be particularly difficult when you’re in your golden years. Recovery may require you to reverse a lifetime of habits, and you may not have the support system you once had.
It may be difficult to know where to start if you or a loved one is a senior seeking addiction recovery. You may worry that your time has passed. That is not the case! This guide will give you tools to recognize the warning signs of addiction and then give you the steps you need to get help.
A particular set of issues affect seniors in recovery to which their younger counterparts may not relate. When you age, your body loses some ability and agility when physically recovering from certain things. Detoxing from alcohol and particular drugs can be a delicate process that requires attentive medical supervision. Additionally, many seniors take medication to assist with the maintenance of their health.
In fact, senior citizens are more likely to be prescribed medications than any other age group. Research shows that 89% of all Americans 65 years and older are currently prescribed at least one medication.
How does this compare to other age groups?
The 50-64-year-old prescription drug rate drops to 75%. The 30-49-year-old age group is only prescribed at 51%. Lastly, adults under 30 are only medicated at rates of 38%. It is important to note that these numbers only reflect people taking at least one medication. The numbers are jarring when we consider adults who take four or more prescribed medications.
About 54% of people over 65 take four or more prescribed medications. The following group, aged 50-64, dropped to 32%. A significant drop comes with the following groups, with 30-49-year-olds prescribed at 13% and just 7% for adults under 30.
What do these statistics signify? First, senior citizens are prescribed medications in high numbers. Second, they are likely to be on multiple medications. These statistics can impact seniors’ likelihood of drug addiction since they have the most access to prescribed medications. Due to this, it is important to be aware of the signs of drug abuse.
Signs of Drug Abuse
Now that we have discussed how vulnerable the senior citizen population is to drug abuse let’s look at how you can tell someone may be suffering from drug addiction.
The first sign is pretty cut and dry. If there is a pattern of someone who needs to refill prescriptions sooner than expected, they may be taking their medication more often or in higher quantities than they are prescribed. The need for early refills can signify self-medication and that they may have become addicted to the relief their prescription provides.
Building off the warning sign of early refills, pay attention to how your loved one acts if they go a few days without the medication to which they may be addicted. The time away from the drug can illuminate several things; the most severe possibility is that the individual may suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
Some notable physical signs of withdrawal include body aches, chills, cold sweats, fatigue, and lethargy. Emotional and psychological withdrawal symptoms are more nuanced.
Someone experiencing withdrawal can have an abnormal amount of anxiety or extreme mood swings. People can get depressed and may experience powerful cravings for their medication.
Identifying an addiction to a medication that you have been prescribed is typically more challenging. People may have a false sense of security with some prescriptions because a doctor distributed them for a legitimate reason. At times, seniors may not be aware that they are abusing their medication. If your loved one appears to have an issue, start by reinforcing that they take their medication exactly as prescribed, and go from there.
While alcohol addiction is a problem for any age group, the consequences become more severe as you age. The older you get, the higher the chance of dying from alcohol abuse.
This possibility of death is prevalent for those aged over 50. In the United States, 32% of people between the ages of 50 and 64 will die from excessive alcohol use. That is almost double the number of people who die from excessive alcohol use under the age of 35.
What about our seniors over the age of 64? A staggering 85.9% of people aged 65 and older die from a chronic disease caused by excessive alcohol consumption in their lifetime.
Suffice it to say that these numbers are shocking. We must support our vulnerable elders and attempt to curb any addictions they may be grappling with sooner than later. Next, we will discuss how to identify if someone is struggling with alcohol abuse.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Before alcohol abuse can be treated, it must be identified. A strong indication that there is an issue with alcohol abuse is if you or someone you love is consuming large amounts of alcohol alone.
The CDC recommends that moderate adult drinkers should not consume more than two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women. If you or a loved one drinks a higher quantity than recommended, you risk developing alcoholism and the negative health impacts that come along with it.
If you see a significant quantity of empty bottles of alcohol piled up in your or a loved one’s home, that could indicate a serious problem.
If you or a loved one have reached the point where you are chemically dependent on alcohol, just like drugs, you will go through withdrawals. Unfortunately, the physical dependency alcohol develops can frequently be so severe that someone could die without the proper detoxification under medical supervision. It is not recommended to quit alcohol cold turkey. Please consult a medical professional before attempting to detox yourself.
Some of the less severe side effects of alcohol withdrawal for someone who is not lethally dependent on it are the same as drug withdrawal, including nausea, headache, chills, cold sweats, cravings, mood swings, and fatigue.
Seniors, Loneliness, & Addiction
Loneliness is a painful and common struggle for the elderly. This feeling of isolation can result from any number of things. Some examples include empty nest syndrome, loss of a spouse, health complications that make it hard to leave the house, loss of friends, and more.
If you are in your golden years and are dealing with feelings of loneliness, you are not alone. It is reported that about 30% of older people are going through the same experience.
When someone abuses alcohol, it is typically symptomatic of underlying pain. Frequently people are self-medicating using drugs and alcohol to escape feelings of anxiety or depression while trying to numb themselves. Loneliness can be a contributing factor to these underlying mental health conditions. If you or a loved one are experiencing a dependency on drugs or alcohol to cope with loneliness or underlying mental health issues, the best step you can take for your health is to reach out to a professional.
Recovering From Addiction
Now that you have a better idea of what can instigate addiction and its signs, it’s time to take action. The next step is to tackle it head-on and get the treatment you or a loved one deserves. Here are a few things you should know about the process.
Have an Intervention
If, after reviewing the warning signs, you are concerned about your loved one’s relationship with drugs and alcohol, you may need to hold an intervention.
An intervention includes a group of friends and family of the addicted individual gathering in a safe space to discuss with the addicted individual how their drug and alcohol use affects those around them.
It is vital to speak from the heart while remaining calm and non-confrontational. Crying and processing emotions is normal, but anger and screaming are counter-productive.
If the addicted individual responds to the intervention with a desire to change, it is time to get them the help they need.
Make a Commitment
Once a successful intervention occurs, it is time to commit to a new healthy lifestyle in recovery. If you or a loved one are ready to find relief, it is time to make a plan. Recovery is not easy, but it’s much more challenging when you go at it alone.
Sunshine Care Centers is here to help you every step of the way on your recovery journey.
Get the Addiction Treatment You Need
At Sunshine Care Centers, we work hard to provide a clean and secure environment for couples to express their thoughts and emotions during treatment. We understand that addiction looks different for everyone. We are dedicated to safely guiding patients through detox and establishing a treatment plan to strengthen and heal their lives.
Don’t wait to receive the help you deserve.