Addiction in Seniors

Substance abusing is not just an issue among adolescents. Aspects related to mental health and loneliness when combined with drug or alcohol habits has also resulted in many seniors to get addicted to abusive substances.

Abusive substances such as alcohol when consumed with prescribed medications can impose significant reactions among adults. According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism revealed that 20 – 30% of seniors aging 75 – 85 years are suffering from drinking problems and another study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that about 2%of senior citizens are reported to get addicted to certain types of illicit drugs. A research made in 2008 indicates that about 40% of older people within the retirement community drinks alcohol.

Excessive use of prescribed medications or the combination of prescribed medications with abusive substances can bring about a series of serious consequences which includes the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Sleeping problems
  • Delirium
  • Balancing issues
  • Increased risk of gaining other medicinal disorders
  • Depression
  • Adverse reactions which can be lethal

Warning signs of addicted seniors

Following mentioned are the warning signs that caregivers can look for in their family member or friend that are suffering from substance abusing problems:

  • Increased falling
  • Prolonged periods of confusion
  • New onset agitation or irritability
  • Sudden changes within the appetite or sleeping patterns which cannot be a reaction of any other cause.
  • Filing medical prescriptions at different pharmacies
  • Changing physicians frequently for obtaining multiple prescriptions

How common is prescription abusing of drugs among seniors?

Many researches have been conducted and it has been revealed that drug abuse is increasing among the elderly. A research taken by Annals of Epidemiology indicated that people aging 50 and above and who are addicted to prescription drugs can increase to about 190% from 911,000 in the year 2001 to that of 2.7 million till 2020.

Riskiest drugs among elderly

Excess use of any substance can bring the health of an addict to a questioning edge. Elderly people are expected to have increased risk of substance abuse. Basically two forms of drugs are usually prescribed in accordance to their potential for addiction. Following mentioned are the two types of drug abuse.

Drug Abusing With Opioids: Using opioids as a prescription is considered to be the most notorious among all forms of drug abuse among the elderly. The drug includes an ingredient of oxycodone or commonly known as Oxy Contin, hydrcodon (Vicodin) and acetaminophen/oxycodone (Percocet) are attached with the receptors of the brain which tends to block the sensitivity of pain. Moreover, by developing dopamine levels within different parts of the brain can also result in euphoria which indirectly influences the sense of pleasure.

The side effects associated with using opioids is sleepiness, vomiting, itching, constipation as well as dizziness. Additionally, if the drug is inhaled in excess can be fatal and lead to death. However, an addict who is taking medication of any type of pain is at the lowest level of risk for developing the habit of addiction to opioids.


Drug Abusing With Benzodiazepines: In addition to opioids, other addiction medications can be Benzodiazepines like clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium). These drugs are most commonly used by doctors to treat panic attacks, anxiety, acute level of stress due to traumatic experiences and insomnia. The effect of getting addicted to this medical prescription is that it slows down the brain activity.