It starts slowly and innocently at first. An older adult needs relief from the knee or back pain that so often comes with aging. Or, perhaps a life-changing event, like divorce or the death of a loved one, throws him or her into a pit of depression and an antidepressant is prescribed. Even retirement can bring on anxiety caused by a sudden lack of purpose, structure, and self-worth for which a prescription anti-anxiety medication is recommended.
A Common Problem
Although these scenarios sound relatively harmless, they can be the start of drug abuse after the age of 65. According to the New York Times, there are a number of factors that make the elderly in general and today’s aging baby boomers specifically more susceptible to becoming addicts.
- the elderly metabolize drugs and alcohol more slowly which means that they stay in their systems longer,
- tolerance to these drugs increases over time and addiction can begin after as few as 10 days of use,
- more established folks often have the money to afford their addiction, and
- Baby Boomers don’t have the same attitude toward drug use as the previous generation. There is less of a stigma.
Pain pills such as OxyContin and Percocet, along with antianxiety and antidepressant pills like Xanax and Valium, are the most frequently prescribed. And since most doctors don’t usually screen for addiction, even low doses can quickly escalate into full-blown addictions. Couple that with the fact that these medications are being used in conjunction with other prescriptions and alcohol, and you have “the perfect storm,” says Brenda J. Iliff, executive director of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Naples, Florida.
Notice the Symptoms
The signs of addiction—like confusion, brain fog, mood swings, and shaking—may not raise red flags when exhibited by seniors because such symptoms are written off as part of aging. Many times, senior addictions are only discovered by medical professionals after they fall or sustain another type of injury. If you notice any of these symptoms and know that your loved one has been taking pills, schedule an appointment for them with a doctor, or try and gently confront them about the issue.
Detox for seniors is difficult and needs to be done slowly and with a lot of monitoring. Cognitive and physical issues can also slow detox treatments down, but once completed, patients can return to living more normal lives, without the debilitating effects of prescription addiction.
Drug abuse is not just a problem faced by young people. It may come as a surprise that as we age, we are, in many ways, more susceptible to prescription pill addiction. At David York Agency, our experienced in-home healthcare providers can help to monitor medication and keep an eye out for warning signs of substance abuse. They are certified and trained in the latest guidelines for eldercare.
For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.