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Senior Citizen Addiction Treatment

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Senior citizens who abuse drugs and alcohol are a growing demographic, making senior citizen addiction treatment a growing concern. According to the U.S. Department of Health’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration, there are over eight million older adults addicted to alcohol or drugs and numbers are expected to rise as the baby boomer generation gets older.

How Seniors Become Addicted

Because the profile of a senior citizen addicted to drugs or alcohol is often different than that of a younger person, treatment options may also differ. Unlike younger individuals who often become addicted to drugs or alcohol as part of a party lifestyle or through social experimentation with illicit substances, older people who become addicted often start out using these substances legitimately.

Many senior citizens become addicted to medication that was originally prescribed for pain relief or other purposes, or may begin using drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating. Other seniors may have become addicted in their youth and remain addicted as they reach middle and old age. In some cases, a senior citizen previously recovered from addiction earlier in life but experiences a relapse when life stressors increase in old age.

Recognizing a Need for Treatment in Seniors

A senior citizen may need addiction treatment if drug or alcohol use is significantly affecting his or her life. If the addiction is to medication originally prescribed by a doctor, the senior citizen may be reluctant to admit that there is a problem for fear that the original condition might return without the drug.

Other seniors might deny a drug or alcohol problem by insisting that they have used the substance in question for years without negative effects, refusing to consider that the circumstances or their own physiology has changed over time. Signs that drug or alcohol use might be a problem for a senior citizen include cravings for or reliance on the substance, deteriorating family relationships as a result of drug or alcohol use, and secretive behavior regarding the extent of drug or alcohol use.

Special Concerns

Because older individuals have a different physiology than younger people, drugs and alcohol often take a greater toll on their bodies. This may mean that it takes a lower dose to cause addiction, or that withdrawal symptoms become more severe once the person quits taking the problem substance. Because of these differences, the specific treatment plan an older person needs must be tailored to the individual.

Senior Citizen Addiction Treatment Programs

Individual Addiction Counseling Information

Individual addiction counseling is available for those who wish to take part in a detoxification program but do not wish to do so with a group. This counseling focuses on the problem of addiction faced by the individual, and then works with behavioral therapy and other methods to eliminate the use of the addictive substance.

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The specific type of treatment necessary depends on the specific substance being abused and the health of the senior citizen. Treatment may involve a combination of medication, individual counseling, group therapy, family counseling, and behavioral training.

In some cases, the senior citizen may be able to undergo treatment on an outpatient basis, visiting a doctor or counselor on a regular basis to get treated. However, for some drugs and circumstances, the best option is treatment in an inpatient setting where a doctor can monitor withdrawal symptoms and adherence to the program.

An older individual may be more likely to need inpatient services than a younger person even when the same drug is involved because the older person is more likely to experience dangerous complications as a result of detoxification. Despite the challenges, senior citizen addiction treatment can result in a successful recovery, so seniors concerned about their drug or alcohol use should seek out help as soon as possible.