Mon. Apr 15th, 2024
3 Strategies That Can Help Older Adults Overcome Drug Addiction 

Drug addiction or substance use disorder has climbed steeply among older adults. Hospitalization rates due to the adverse effects of drugs are four times higher among older adults than younger individuals. 

A recent NIH publication observes prescription drugs such as opiates and benzodiazepines (BZD), alcohol, and over-the-counter medications to be the most abused drugs. 

Recognizing substance abuse among elderly people is difficult. Slurred speech, anxiety or depression, and less contact with family and friends are warning signs of drug addiction in older adults. Family members often disregard these symptoms as signs of aging. However, you mustn’t do so. 

Drug addiction is more of a matter of concern among older adults than it is in people of other age groups. These people, unlike young adults, are more vulnerable to the deteriorating effects of psychoactive drugs. Fortunately, it is possible for elderly people to recover from substance use disorder, but it takes time. 

This article discusses the strategies that can help older adults overcome drug addiction. 

The Dangers of Substance Use Disorders in the Elderly

A recent WebMD publication reveals that men who are 50 years old or above are more likely to abuse alcohol. Some use it to fill the time, while others turn to it to soothe worries. 

Individuals aged 50 and above have a low tolerance for alcohol. Overuse of alcohol, thus, causes regional brain shrinkage, which could lead to a decline in cognitive function as well as memory. These effects are particularly pronounced among 65 years old and above adults. 

Alcohol might also interact with other drugs elderly adults take and worsen many medical conditions. These include depression, dementia, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 

About 28% of adults aged 50 and above misuse prescription drugs. Prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines (BZD) and opioids, are often abused due to miscommunication regarding proper drug usage. Prescription drug abuse is responsible for 14% of hip fractures in adults above 60 years of age. 

The use of illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine, common among people aged 50 and above, is dangerous. The bodies of older adults cannot process these drugs as quickly as they could when they were younger. Thus, overdoses result in falls and accidents. 

Overcoming Drug Addiction in Older Adults: 3 Strategies

Drug addiction– alcohol, marijuana, or prescription medicines– among older adults leads to a host of complications. Overcoming addiction, though challenging, is essential. Otherwise, substance abuse disorder can result in death. 

Here are some strategies that can help older adults overcome drug addiction:

1. Withdrawal Therapy

Drug addiction affects the brain and behavior of individuals to the point where they lose control over their use of drugs.

Withdrawal therapy, also known as detox or detoxification, can help in such a situation. The process of clearing drugs or alcohol that the individual has consumed from the body is known as detoxification. 

Detoxification involves the reduction of the drug dose gradually or substituting it with another substance. The goal of this therapy is to help people stop taking drugs as quickly and safely as possible.

Most addicts undergo withdrawal therapy on an outpatient basis, i.e., without staying in the hospital. However, chronic drug abusers might require admission to a residential treatment center or hospital. 

2. Medication

For elderly adults with opioid use disorder, alcohol use disorder, or nicotine use disorder, medications can be quite effective. These help relieve symptoms of withdrawal, control drug cravings, and prevent lapses. 

Oral medications such as Zyban (varenicline) and Wellbutrin (bupropion) treat nicotine use disorder effectively. ReVia and Vivitrol (naltrexone), Antabuse (disulfiram), and Campral (acamprosate) are used to treat alcohol use disorder. 

In regard to opioid use disorder, physicians often prescribe ReVia and Vivitrol (naltrexone), Dolophine and Methados (methadone), and Lucemyra (lofexidine). 

A combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, sold under the brand name Suboxone, is also used to treat opioid dependence. Millions of Americans have recovered from opioids using Suboxone. But there’s a catch. A scientific study observed an increased risk of adverse dental outcomes with the use of sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone. 

In 2022, the FDA warned users about dental issues linked to the use of buprenorphine. These include loss of teeth, oral infections, cavities, and tooth decay. These side effects have also been reported among users with no history of dental issues. 

These revelations have given rise to the Suboxone tooth decay lawsuit. A growing number of people are suing Suboxone manufacturer Indivior, claiming that it failed to warn them about the potential risks of using its medicine. 

Suboxone films, TorHoerman Law explains, are acidic in nature, which is why they weaken the tooth enamel and affect dental health negatively. The American Dental Association reveals that older adults are at an increased risk of dental caries due to increased sensitivity to drugs. Thus, it’s best to steer clear of Suboxone when it comes to treating opioid use disorder. 

Before you give your elderly family member any medication, consult a healthcare professional, though, to be on the safe side. 

3. Counseling

An addiction counselor can help your elderly family member overcome drug addiction. Counseling is considered to be effective because it gets at the core of why an individual turns to drugs and what they can do to overcome their addiction. 

The therapist or counselor will equip your elderly family member with strategies to cope with drug cravings and suggest ways to prevent relapse. They also offer suggestions on how to deal with a relapse in case it occurs. 

Wrapping it up, drug addiction in elderly members is worrying due to their advancing age as well as susceptibility to chronic diseases. While they can overcome addiction, the road to recovery is fraught with challenges. These strategies can help, but support from friends and families is important. It will make the road to recovery an easy one. Thus, make sure to lend your support to your loved one struggling with addiction. 

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