The Sunshine State had long been a favorite haven for retirees looking to enjoy the good life. But alcohol and drug abuse is a rapidly growing public health issue effecting Florida’s senior citizens. Substance abuse in this group falls into two groups, the “hardy survivor,” or those who have been abusing substances for many years and have reached 65, and the “late onset” group, those who first have problems later in life.
You’ve heard that aging isn’t for sissies. Health related issues or life-changing events are the most common events associated with late life addictions. Relocation, loss of income or statue, death of a family member, spouse, pet or close friend or mental and physical decline are some of the major life events that can trigger the problem.
Alcohol or drug abuse among seniors is often underestimated and under-diagnosed. This can prevent them from getting the help they need. Often their addictions mimic symptoms of other medical or mental health disorders, including diabetes, dementia or depression. Doctors may not think of alcohol or substance abuse in this age group. Prescription medications, not illicit drugs, are the real danger.
When seniors complain of chronic back pain, or arthritis they are often prescribed pain pills. Irritability, the jitters and sleep problems lead to abuse of anti anxiety meds such as Klonopin, Ativan or Xana, and Sleep Aids such as Ambien or Sonata. Habits that were not an issue in earlier life become major problems. Social drinking gives way to alcohol abuse.
Drug or alcohol abuse is especially dangerous in seniors because the effects of these agents are amplified in this group. Seniors have a decreased ability to metabolize drugs or alcohol, and increased brain sensitivity to them. It takes less, effects them more, and lasts longer. It is very dangerous for seniors to use drugs or alcohol at all, even if they aren’t addicted. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, advises that healthy men and women aged 65 or older should have no more than 1 drink daily.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction don’t wait. We at Advanced Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry can help. Addiction is treatable and recovery is real. Get help now. Please call us.