It’s common to associate substance abuse with teenagers and college students. However, substance abuse does not limit itself to a given age. In fact, seniors are increasingly at risk of becoming addicted to medications without even knowing it. Whether they are taking strong painkillers during a prolonged recovery from surgery, or anxiety medication to help cope with stress and loss, abuse of both illicit and prescribed medications can quickly turn an 85 year old into an addict.
September is National Recovery Month and serves as a reminder that seniors can suffer from addiction. Some things to watch for when considering that a senior may becoming an addict include cognitive issues, emotional stress, and doctor shopping.
Alcohol can adversely interact with prescription medications. When speaking to a doctor, it is vitally important that seniors be 100 percent honest about any and all substances they are consuming. They need to tell the doctor about any medications they are taking and how much alcohol they drink regularly. The doctor can then give the best advice possible to avoid the catastrophic consequences of mixing medications.
It’s not always easy to tell when a senior is abusing their medications or whether they are doing it purposely or as a result of memory impairment. Even doctors may miss the signs of drug abuse, attributing a senior’s restlessness, jitters, and loss of appetite as symptoms to other ailments, not drug withdrawal. Common signs of prescription abuse can include balance issues, cognitive problems, delirium, depression, and sleeping problems.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 20-30 percent of people 75 to 85 have experienced drinking problems. Meanwhile, 3.6 percent of people 60-64 report using an illicit drugs. While the incidence of drug use, such as marijuana, is low among older people, they often take pills to treat chronic illnesses. The average senior takes four to nine pills every day, either prescribed or over-the-counter. Easy access to strong drugs, combined with loneliness and any pre-existing alcohol or drug habit can easily turn a senior into an addict.
Aging isn’t easy. Physical and mental pain can become more prevalent. Loved ones pass away, mobility decreases, and isolation sets in which can cause depression. Younger family members may be too busy or live too far away to visit regularly. Seniors may find that drugs soften the pain of these events.
One option when searching for help is to find an Osteopathic physician (DOs) for the senior. They are specifically trained to listen to their patients in order to help them deal with physical and emotional problems at any stage in life. Seniors must be honest and communicative in order to stay strong, and live a healthy life. Seniors and their families must remain.
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