Older People and Addiction

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Older People and Addiction

Substance abuse and addiction in older adults is a serious problem that often doesn’t get enough attention. At Psyclarity Health, we understand the unique challenges facing senior citizens struggling with addiction.

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects people of all demographics. Addiction in aging adults may happen for a number of reasons, including generational cycles, using drugs to cope with health or pain-related issues, or not knowing how to properly handle stress at work or home. Regardless of the cause, addiction in senior citizens is something serious we all need to talk about.

According to a 2018 report, over a million American adults over the age of 65 live with a substance use disorder, and that number has risen in more recent years. Substance abuse among the elderly is more common than most people think. While we are often concerned about drug and alcohol use in younger populations, we neglect to help an entire age group.


Why Does Addiction Happen in Aging Adults?

There is no comprehensive evidence as to why senior citizen addiction, or addiction of any kind, starts. Addiction in senior citizens can be caused by a variety of factors, such as using drugs to cope with health or pain-related issues, using substances to cope with stress at home or work, generational cycles of substances, or pressure from friends and family. Isolation is another significant cause of addiction in older adults, as they may use drugs to fill emotional voids when they are alone and seeking nurturing and happiness.


Challenges of Recognizing Substance Abuse in the Elderly

One of the most significant challenges of addiction in the elderly is the difficulty in recognizing the problem. In many cases, seniors with addiction are not identified until the problem has already become severe. This is because they may be living alone and have fewer opportunities for people to notice they’re struggling.


The Cycle of Addiction is Harder to Recognize

The cycle of senior citizen addiction continues for many reasons, and it’s important we start to address them. Many senior citizens are able to hide their addiction better than young adults.

While money may run out quickly as substance use continues with younger people, it’s easier for older adults to continue an addiction because they’re typically more secure in finances due to retirement and savings. However, their savings may quickly dwindle if they are frequent drug users.

Lack of education and resources directed specifically at aging adults with addiction is another reason why these cycles continue. They may not know how to speak about it or where to go to find help. The stigma around drug addiction may also stop them.


Signs and Symptoms of Addiction in the Elderly

It’s heartbreaking to find out someone you love has a substance use disorder. At Psyclarity Health, we understand the importance of recognizing addiction in the elderly. The following are signs and symptoms, and indicators of addiction to look out for in older people.


Isolation and Detachment

If you notice someone has been significantly more isolated or detached lately, reach out to them. They may be coming to fewer family functions, ignoring your phone calls, or neglecting to show up to commitments.


Lack of Self-Care

Another major sign of addiction in aging adults is a sudden lack of care for themselves or their environment. Those suffering from addiction may stop frequently showering or grooming themselves, and they might find themselves neglecting to grocery shop or pay bills. You might also notice irrational, sporadic behavior from them. They might experience serious mood swings, and they could appear constantly on edge.


Physical Symptoms

Many times it’s difficult to notice someone struggling with addiction once they’re deep into the cycle. If you suspect someone has become dependent on alcohol or other substances, there are some physical symptoms you can check for.

First, take a look at their physical health. Have they gone through excessive weight loss in a short amount of time? When they’re not using substances, do they experience heavy sweating or heart palpitations? Substance use disorder could also increase the chance of insomnia and irritability.

If you notice spotty memory and unexplained bruises, they could be suffering from frequent, dangerous blackouts. Having an honest look into their situation is crucial when looking for symptoms.


Social and Economic Issues

On top of physical side effects, drug addictions have great social and economic side effects. A major consequence is the loss of trust from friends and family. Those struggling with substance abuse become more irritable and more likely to cut off those closest to them. They’ll also start creating greater debt as the addiction grows. All of these consequences contribute to the scary cycle of addiction. Greater isolation and debt result in higher chances of anxiety, depression, or suicide ideation. People often turn to substances to fix these feelings.


Common Addictions in Older Adults

Elderly substance abuse and addiction is a growing concern. Alcohol, marijuana, and prescription medication are the most commonly used substances by older adults. Learning about the possible substances being used is vital to understanding the potential health risks associated with their use.



Alcohol has continuously proven to be the most commonly used substance in older adults. At-risk drinking occurs when there are pre-existing health complications that can worsen due to the use of alcohol. Alcohol can suppress breathing or cause a racing heart. Because many elderly adults take prescription medication, drinking while actively being on medication can easily produce health risks. Some signs of alcohol abuse to look out for include slurred speech and bruises from falls during blackouts.


Illicit Drugs

Older American adults are more at risk and likely to struggle with illicit drug use. Popular illicit drugs in elderly adults include marijuana and cocaine. Marijuana is heavily used to reduce age-related pain and has become a greater source of addiction due to its growing popularity. There’s also been greater leniency in city and state laws regarding the use of marijuana, which has contributed to growing addictions in seniors. Some elderly adults face lower levels of energy and stamina. Because of this, many are turning to cocaine, which is a stimulant that’s highly addictive.


Prescription Medications

Prescription drug abuse is high up there with the most common addictions in the elderly because they receive far more prescriptions than young adults. Popular prescription drugs include forms of codeine, morphine, and oxycodone. More health facilities are requiring frequent urine testing to regulate the use of prescription drugs, but many people are illegally selling drugs for major profit. If you suspect someone is abusing prescription medication, you might notice a growing collection of prescription bottles and pharmacy bags.


Treatment Options For Elderly Addictions

There are a number of treatment options to choose from when working towards recovery. It’s important to choose an option that best works for you and your needs. At Psyclarity Health, we understand the unique challenges older adults face when it comes to substance abuse and addiction and offer the appropriate treatment and mental health services. Our treatment team is dedicated to providing personalized care and evidence-based treatments to help seniors overcome substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health problems and achieve lasting recovery. We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment options to fit your lifestyle and level of addiction.


Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is highly effective, but it’s not for everyone. If you want a fully immersive rehabilitation experience, it’s best to commit to inpatient treatment. You’ll live inside the facility and have support from the staff at all times. This kind of treatment is best if you’re feeling emotionally unstable or suicidal. You’ll have access to mental health resources and emotional support. It’s also the best option for those fighting serious addictions.


Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment could be a great fit for you if you have a supportive environment at home and want to maintain a more normal flow of life. Our team of experts collaborates closely with you and your loved ones to create a treatment program that suits your needs and aligns with your objectives.


Other Ways to Cope

Especially if you’re involved in outpatient treatment, it’s crucial to find healthy coping methods to fill your time. At Psyclarity Health, we encourage our patients to explore various activities that promote wellness and healing.

If you’re looking to explore creative hobbies, why not try painting, cooking, sewing, drawing, or photography? Engaging in creative hobbies can be a great way to express yourself and reduce stress.

Yoga, stretching, and other gentle forms of physical activity are great for aging adults. They help relieve stress and promote relaxation. Even something as simple as practicing breathing exercises can calm your mind. At Psyclarity Health, we also offer holistic healing through movement and practices like reiki. Our goal is to provide gentle, effective care that promotes healing and overall well-being.


How Can We Help?

At Psyclarity Health, we understand the devastating effects of substance abuse and addiction in the elderly population. We offer a variety of recovery resources for those struggling with addiction, including education, treatment options, and support.



We believe that education is one of the greatest tools used to fight addiction. Understanding the common types of drugs and their side effects is important. If people start to understand how addiction affects people, we can start to do a better job of preventing it.



We provide a caring and encouraging environment to help you through the recovery process. Our treatment team is trained in all forms of counseling and dedicated to providing all the guidance you need to overcome addiction and regain control of your life.


How Can You Help?

Even if you don’t know anyone personally dealing with a substance abuse problem, there are things you can do to help. The biggest thing you can do to help is to educate yourself and others. These educational opportunities are especially important if your community has a high population of aging adults. On top of education opportunities, invest in opportunities where aging adults can socialize and have fun to reduce the rate of addiction.


Change is Possible with The Right Help

At Psyclarity Health, we want you to know that change is always possible. Recovery is a journey, and it starts with admitting that you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction. It’s not an easy step, but it’s the first one towards a brighter future.

Recovery may seem daunting, but with the right team and emotional support, you can beat addiction. Our team at Psyclarity Health is here to support you every step of the way. We understand that recovery can be a challenging journey, especially if you’re dealing with a serious addiction. That’s why we provide a safe and supportive environment for all our patients. Our medical staff can provide support during cases of withdrawal, and our team is always here to listen and provide guidance.

If anyone continues to doubt your recovery or encourages your substance abuse, create strict boundaries with them. It’s important to be surrounded by a supportive environment during your journey towards recovery.

Lastly, make sure you’re supporting yourself. It’s important to be your own biggest fan and know that you’re taking the right steps toward a healthier and happier future. At Psyclarity Health, we’re here to help you achieve your goals and live the life you deserve.

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