Why Colorado Seniors Are at Risk for Substance Use Disorders December 5th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Why Colorado Seniors Are at Risk for Substance Use Disorders

Why Colorado Seniors Are at Risk for Substance Use Disorders

Elderly woman looking sad at prescription pills

Getting older and hitting those senior years can be challenging for the elderly in Colorado. The stresses of aging and other circumstances are often numerous and can lead to an increased risk for substance use orders in this age group.

Risk Factors for Elderly Substance Abuse

The risk of substance abuse for seniors in Colorado is often overlooked by family members and healthcare professionals. The elderly are at increased risk of psychological disorders like anxiety and depression when they have friends and loved ones that pass away, have financial difficulties in retirement, and face health challenges that are often disheartening.

Depression and anxiety can often lead to self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. It is telling that widowers over the age of 75 have the highest alcoholism rates of any group in the U.S., according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

In some cases, long-term substance abuse that has not been treated can worsen as seniors age and often lead to new problems and complications that demand intervention. For instance, hospitalizations among older adults for addiction-related reasons equal hospitalizations for heart attacks.

Many seniors are prescribed tranquilizers, which are a type of drug known as benzodiazepines, and these drugs are among the most abused prescription drugs for seniors. Furthermore, about half of all nursing home residents have problems with alcohol abuse. Clearly, the risks of substance abuse among seniors are underestimated.

Elderly man drinking a beer

Elderly widowers and nursing home residents are more likely to have alcohol abuse issues.

Symptoms of Elderly Substance Abuse

Healthcare providers and family members often find it difficult to identify substance abuse among seniors because the symptoms can mimic other common health conditions and even some of the signs of aging. When elderly people become dizzy or disoriented, confused or unsteady, many people just attribute that to their age rather than to substance abuse. Health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia may also mask substance abuse in some cases.

A clearer sign of substance abuse among the elderly may be finding evidence of secretive drug or alcohol use, whether it is too many empty alcohol bottles or a number prescriptions for the same medication from different doctors.

Significant Impact on Senior Health

The health impacts of substance abuse on the elderly can be devastating and can even result in death from overdose or other complications. Although it may seem tempting to ignore elderly substance abuse because the affected person is near the end of his or her life or because you do not feel comfortable confronting a parent or older relative who is engaging in addictive behavior.

The reality is that an estimated 2.5 million seniors are now struggling with substance abuse, and these seniors deserve help and treatment as much as younger people in society. If you have an elderly family member or friend that may be exhibiting symptoms of substance abuse, the professionals at Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can provide treatment for addictions and help them live out the rest of their lives free from debilitating addictions. Contact us today to discuss treatment options!


Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.