Substance abuse problems can have a negative impact on your social relationships and physical and mental health. Especially in older adults, substance abuse can lead to serious illnesses and worsen medical conditions which could increase their cost of healthcare.
Substance abuse, let alone substance use isn’t noticed as an issue in older adults. The percentage of seniors knowingly and unknowingly abusing alcohol or other substances is growing.
In 2001, there were 1.7 million substance abusers over the age of 50 and the number is expected to increase to over 4.4 million by 2020.
Psychological and Physical Aspects of Substance Abuse
As we age our bodies will metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than it did when we were younger. This is why older adults are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and have decreased tolerance. Seniors are often in denial about their tolerance.
Seniors also misuse medications because they are easily accessible if they have chronic conditions and are prescribed medication. Communication between the physician and older adults can be difficult because adjustments for age-appropriate doses and information on the medication are often left out.
The interactions between alcohol and medications can cause medical and psychological problems in seniors.
Since seniors metabolize alcohol more slowly, small amounts of alcohol can cause serious consequences. Alcohol use may have some positive physical and psychological benefits for seniors but often times it complicates medical conditions, causes unsafe interactions with medications, and increases falls, confusion and depression.
Older adults misuse alcohol to cope with retirement, loss of family and friends and mental or physical decline. Men are more likely to have alcohol abuse issues. If seniors are suffering from insomnia or a family history of alcoholism, this can also be a factor.
Family members should try to keep an eye on their loved ones so they can spot health problems that may be due to alcohol or drugs.
Prescription/OTC Medication Misuse
According to reports from the Special Committee on Aging, seniors use prescription drugs three times more than the rest of the population. Also, older adults purchase almost three-quarters of all over the counter medications. Misuse would include extra doses, forgetting to fill prescriptions, not understanding the instructions, missing doses, taking medication at the wrong time and rationing out medications so they last longer.
As your body ages, it goes through changes in digestion, liver and kidney functions. This impacts the way medications are metabolized and creates a greater risk of physical or mental damage for seniors.
Medical factors like using multiple medications and sensory decline, psychological factors like cognitive decline or mental disorders, and cultural or language barriers may impact a senior’s ability to take medication properly.
Sometimes it is difficult for an older adult to keep track of all their prescriptions because they have several physicians who prescribe multiple medications. The problem with this is that often physicians are unaware of other prescriptions the senior is taking, and this could lead to dangerous interactions.
The most common OTC and prescription drug abuse comes from medications such as painkillers, antianxiety drugs, sleeping pills, and decongestants.
There are health education programs that target older adults and provide them with knowledge on alcohol and drug misuse. It may be hard to understand but seniors who do not have a life long record of addiction may be reluctant to help because they believe they do not have an issue. They need to be treated in ways that are more comfortable or suitable for them.
Health Education at Nevada Adult Day Healthcare Centers
Our adult daycare centers are more like adult health centers because we consistently engage in health education. The goal at Nevada Adult Day Healthcare Centers is to maintain seniors’ level of independence. If you believe your loved one is going through substance abuse and mental health problems, call us to see what services we offer; we are dedicated to practicing healthy choices together!