The Invisible Drug Abuse Epidemic Among Older Adults

Although it’s common to associate addiction with younger demographics, a new drug addiction epidemic is on the rise among America’s aging generations. Recent research indicates older adults are not only at increased risk for substance abuse, but they struggle with addiction just as much — if not more — than younger generations.

As more geriatric patients check into drug rehab centers across Fresno, California to the East Coast, here’s what you need to know about the concerning rise in what addiction specialists are calling “the invisible epidemic.”

Prescription Drug Abuse Rises Among Older Adults

Close to 17 percent of adults over the age of 60 struggle with either substance abuse or full-fledged addiction. The majority of people within this percentage cite prescription medication as their primary drug of choice. And because substance abuse symptoms can be identical to the symptoms of diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, older adult addicts often fly below the radar, suffering in silence until they gather the courage to contact alcohol and drug rehab centers. From larger cities like Fresno to smaller Midwestern towns, the number of adults checking into drug rehab centers is raising concerns everywhere.

Life Changes, Declined Health Contribute to Addiction

Why is this particular demographic more at risk for substance abuse and addiction? There are several factors that contribute to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse among older adults. Anxiety-inducing life changes, retirement from work, the loss of friends and family and declined health can all be major power players when it comes to addiction. And because older adults are often prescribed highly-addictive medications in abundance, drug abuse becomes a tangible reality for many people. Whether they’re checking into drug rehab centers in Fresno or on the East Coast, this rising addiction epidemic has doctors and healthcare providers deeply concerned.

Older Adults Are More Receptive to Treatment

Indicators of addiction among older adults can include neglected hygiene and responsibilities, depression, mood swings, car accidents and frequent falls. Fortunately, research shows that older adults respond more positively to treatment and recovery than younger generations, which means that there’s hope on the horizon for this invisible epidemic.


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