Alcohol and drug abuse among elderly citizens
The alcohol and drug abuse among elderly or senior citizens is becoming a serious and
growing problem in United States and it is estimated that about ten percent of Americans
being admitted to drug rehab programs are over 50-years old. The Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) expects that by 2020, the number of older
substance abusers would be around 4.4 million. It is estimated that about two-thirds of
elderly American citizens have alcoholism that started before they age 50. The remaining
one-third develops late onset addictions that often arise from life changes such as
retirement, death or disability of spouse.
The alcohol abuse is a dominant problem even though the prescription drug abuse is also
rising much faster among these age groups. An alcohol and drug rehab is desperately
needed for elderly people but the rehab is quite difficult as older adults are harder to be
lured into treatment because of generational hesitancy of airing one’s dirty laundry in
public. Among the elderly or senior citizens some types of drug abuse such as use of street
drugs like crack, heroin or marijuana are less when compared with adolescents and younger
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, hospital admissions for
alcohol related problems are equal to those of heart attacks among older Americans.
However, physicians and nurses are significantly less likely to recognize alcoholism in an
older patient than in a younger patient. Mr. Kristine Pringle, a doctoral student at Penn
State University’s school of health policy and administration informs that Medicare records
also shows that addiction among elderly is under diagnosed. Diagnosing drug addiction is
just quite difficult because older Americans usually do not consume street drugs but rather
abuse their prescription medications.
Majority of senior citizen addicts do much better in a treatment or rehab program that
entirely focuses on older adults. The reason for this may be due to the fact that older
addicts behaves quite differently from a teenaged or even middle aged alcohol/drug user.
Seniors are not as likely to curse at one another or others, raise their voices in anger, or do
any untoward activities. Moreover, seniors often prefer not to be around others who act this
way or manner. That is why it is quite important to have senior specific treatment programs
that include group therapy sessions, holistic drug treatment methods, comprehensive
outpatient treatment regimen to ensure that senior clients stays clean.