The symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction can be difficult to notice in elderly patients. Lifestyle changes and emotional challenges can contribute to their susceptibility to chemical dependence and can make detection and treatment challenging to accomplish.
Addiction Risks for the Elderly
The following life changes place elderly patients at risk for addiction:
- Chronic pain may lead to prescription painkiller abuse.
- The loss of a loved one can cause depression.
- Taking multiple medications increases the risk of harmful interactions.
- Memory loss can cause patients to accidentally overdose on medications.
- Some medications are not safe to mix with alcohol, but patients may forget.
- Elderly patients may resist addiction help due to shame or denial.
Preventing substance abuse and addiction among the elderly requires transparency, diligence and candor. Some patients struggle with these things as the symptoms of aging increase.
Signs of Senior Addiction
If you are concerned about your own growing need for drugs or alcohol or you are concerned about the substance use of an elderly loved one, consider the following questions carefully:
- Have you ever been dishonest about your drug or alcohol use? This includes stretching the truth, exaggerating symptoms or manipulating doctors or pharmacists to get additional drugs.
- Do you feel anxiety or worry when your supply of medications runs low?
- Have you noticed that you need larger or more frequent doses to achieve the results you desire?
- Do you get confused about which medications you have taken each day?
- Do you occasionally take a drink to enhance the effects of your medication?
- Have you lost interest in activities you once enjoyed?
- Do you feel symptoms of depression increasing as you age?
Many seniors believe that addiction is something that happens to reckless, irresponsible people seeking to escape responsibilities or find a cheap thrill. The truth is that addiction is a physical and emotional disease that chemically changes neural pathways in the brain.
While reckless behavior can certainly increase the likelihood of addiction, millions of elderly patients who have never been high, never knowingly abused drugs and never broken a single law have become addicted to prescription medications. This is nothing to be ashamed of.