Drug addiction can affect anyone who is exposed to addictive drugs, including sleeping medications, pain relievers and anti-anxiety medications. Addiction doesn’t care what ethnicity a person is, or what gender he or she is. It doesn’t care if you are rich or of limited means. It doesn’t care how old you are. According to an article published by the Huffington Post, as many as 3 million seniors are currently suffering from addiction, and as the middle-age population grows, those numbers are only expected to increase.
Reasons for Addiction Issues Among the Middle-Aged and Elderly Populations
Generally speaking, it’s safe to assume that no one intends to become addicted to drugs. Even those individuals who choose to abuse drugs for the euphoria they bring, or because “everyone is doing it,” may somehow feel as though they are immune to the addiction risks. When someone in their advanced years begins to take prescription pain relievers, for instance, they do not believe that they will become dependent on them. Prescription drug abuse, however, can be a subtle activity that many do not even realize they have participated in.
Prescription drug abuse occurs when an individual takes a drug either without a prescription or in a manner other than as directed by their doctor. For example, an individual may complain to a friend about pain in their joints. They aren’t sure why they are experiencing the pain, but the friend recognizes the symptoms as the same ones they experienced when they were diagnosed with arthritis. Rather than making an appointment and visiting their primary care physician, this person may accept proffered pain medications. Perhaps they can’t afford to visit a doctor, or they believe whatever the condition is will pass in short order.
In this situation, they may take far more than they should at any given time, increasing their tolerance to the medication. By taking their friend’s medication, they are robbing themselves of a proper diagnosis, which may be more severe than simple arthritis, and they are placing themselves at risk for developing addiction when the medication doesn’t work as well as they’d like.
If this same individual decides to make an appointment and follow all the necessary steps to receive a legal prescription, but then takes the medication in higher doses than they should or more frequently than they should, they are also engaging in the dangerous practice of drug abuse. If the prescribed dosage is not as effective as they would like it to be, the correct course of action is to revisit the prescribing doctor and investigate other avenues of pain control.
Illness and injury are not the only factors involved in middle-age or elderly drug abuse. With financial issues relating to the loss of a job or the death of elderly parents or a spouse, anxiety and depression are of concern as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals who suffer from these types of mental health issues are at a higher risk of abusing drugs and developing an addiction. While the exact cause of addiction is not fully understood, research has shown that in order for treatment to be most effective, both the co-occurring condition (should one exist) and the addiction issue need to be treated with the same concern at the same time.
Helping a Family Member Get the Help Needed to Recover From Addiction
While there is no known cure for the chronic disease of drug addiction, treatment can help an individual control the symptoms and live their life free from drug or alcohol abuse. Many individuals who suffer from addiction do not realize they are afflicted, or they have developed thoughts and ideas that make them believe that they can’t change their behaviors. For instance, if your elderly grandmother is suffering from addiction, she may not realize it because she believes that addiction is a problem for young people who like to use drugs for fun. She may believe that she only takes her medication because she must, not because she wants to “get high.” While this may be true, if she is unable to enjoy her life because of her dependence on her medication, the results of her addiction are the same. Furthermore, once she realizes that she does have a problem following the directions given to her by her doctor, she may fear that without her prescription, she will be in too much pain or too depressed to enjoy her life.
Getting help for a family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can be challenging, but it is possible to educate them on the problems their drug abuse is causing and the concern that loved ones feel for their safety. An intervention by family members with the help of a professional interventionist is an event where family members and friends confront an individual about their drug abuse and addiction.
- Specific events that have caused worry; for instance, a fall that resulted from the abuse of opioid pain medication or the inability to wake them while they were overmedicated
- Long-term health risks
- Risks of overdose
- Loss of independence due to an inability to safely drive a car
- Loss of future employment opportunities
During the intervention process, each member of the team may reiterate that they will be forced to withdraw their support, such as providing transportation, if the individual does not agree to seek help. Should they agree to enter drug abuse treatment, it is important that a treatment facility be available immediately.
A Typical Day at a Residential Drug Treatment Program
Each drug treatment plan will be unique and different depending upon many factors. The person’s history of drug and alcohol abuse, family history, diagnosis, and the types of drugs to which he or she is addicted will all come into play when developing a treatment plan. When an individual chooses a residential facility for their treatment, however, they will have a schedule that includes the various aspects of their care.
Each morning, the residents will be provided with a nutritious breakfast and time to take care of their personal needs. Once they are prepared for their day, they may participate in an individual therapy session with their personal counselor. This might be followed with a yoga class that can provide them with stress-relieving skills that can last well beyond the time they spend in treatment. After lunch, they may engage in a group therapy session where they can learn from others, help to support others from their own life experiences, and receive guidance from a licensed therapist who oversees the session. Throughout the day, your loved one may spend private time enjoying their relaxing surroundings, while working on elements of their therapy that include “homework.” After dinner, they may participate in peer support groups.
The purpose of a residential facility, in part, is to focus all of the residents’ attentions on recovery. Every aspect of the day is nurtured to promote healing.
- Sweat lodges
- Use of herbal remedies and therapies
- Therapeutic massage
When a parent or grandparent suffers from addiction, it can be difficult for family members to watch. It is also difficult, at times, to broach the subject because, in many cases, it has been the older person’s responsibility to watch out for you. Addiction is a serious illness, however, that often requires treatment to overcome. If you have an older family member whom you suspect is suffering from drug addiction, please feel free to contact us here at Axis. We offer programs that can be catered to middle-age and elderly individuals who wish to achieve a sober and balanced life.