Help For Older Adults Who Struggle with Addiction

Do you have an older parent or adult in your life that struggles with alcohol or drugs?

It is estimated that the baby boomer generation comprises approximately 30 % of the entire U.S. population. By the year 2030, there will be approximately 72 million Americans over the age of 65.

There has been a misconception that alcohol and drug abuse is not a problem for this population group. Adult children of alcoholic parents have a different view on this misconception. In most cases, senior citizens struggling with alcohol and drug abuse have presented with signs of abuse for many years.

One of the challenges with providing intervention and treatment to senior citizens is denial and minimizing by the client. Family and close friends will also minimize or deny that the older adult has any problems with alcohol or other chemical substances. Some of the excuses made by the client and others range from they deserve to have their cocktails because of their age, they are retired and do not have to go anywhere. They are not hurting anyone, it helps them to sleep or deal with physical and emotional pain. The glass of wine or beer helps them to socialize. There may have been the death of a spouse/partner or other loved one. These are understandable and appropriate reasons for an older adult to have an occasional drink or two. Alcohol becomes a problem for the senior citizen when it impacts their relationships, disrupts their daily living activities and affects their mental and physical health.


Abuse of prescribed medications is also a problem among older adults. Routinely, older adults report problems with their sleep patterns. Medical doctors or other health care professionals will prescribe sleep medications and/or benzodiazepines (Klonopin, Xanax, and Ativan) to assist with sleep. These three drugs, Klonopin, Xanax, and Ativan, as well as other benzodiazepines, are prescribed for anxiety disorders, however, they are helpful with creating better sleep. Research has shown that benzodiazepines are physically addictive and taken over an extended period of time will result in developing dependency. Sleep medications and anti-anxiety medications can have serious health consequences if they are abused. In some cases, abuse of these medications in conjunction with alcohol can be fatal.

You are never to old or young to begin your journey into recovery.

Brief/short interventions have been found to be effective and successful with older adults that are abusing alcohol and medications. These interventions can occur in emergency rooms, senior centers, doctor’s offices or assisted living facilities. These brief interventions should last from 15 minutes to less than one hour and can be the vehicle for changing the behaviors of the older adult. Providing educational information to older adults about alcohol and drug abuse is helpful during these meetings. Family members and friends play a vital role in helping the older adult to make changes in their use of alcohol. It is suggested that these interventions also be brief and done in a loving and non-judgmental environment. Licensed Counselors can provide important guidance and direction to family members and others on how to intervene with the older adult.

Effort and hope are essential for recovery.

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