How to Fight Addiction At an Old Age

Updated on January 14, 2022

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While addiction is dangerous at any age, it is especially risky for senior citizens who are living alone. Seniors who have substance addiction problems tend to be less likely to recover quickly and fully. In addition, their bodies are not in a position to effectively detox if they decide to sober up. Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to help elderly individuals overcome their addictive behaviors.

Understanding the Common Substances Abused By the Elderly

Alcohol is a substance that many seniors abuse, and it can be costly for those on a fixed income. Some decide to turn to prescription drugs instead, which are often easier to acquire and have a similar effect. If an elderly person is suffering from body pain or arthritis, they may have access to pain medication that is dangerous over an extended period of time. Drug addiction can be especially common with those who have been prescribed morphine or some form of chemotherapy.

Substances that seniors are typically addicted to include alcohol, benzodiazepines and opioids. For the elderly population, addiction is a serious risk factor for dementia. It also increases the likelihood of physical injuries such as hip fractures or impaired driving. Seniors with these addictions should not try healing alone; they need professional help from experienced physicians and therapists.

Addiction Recovery

When a substance abuse situation is identified, it needs to be fixed immediately. First, it is important to understand why the individual started to use this drug in the first place. Some addicts have problems because they are trying to self-medicate. For example, if they were once diagnosed with depression, they may be taking steps to numb their feelings.

When addiction is identified, one of the most important things that can be done is to approach the individual with care and compassion. Instead of shaming them or making them feel embarrassed about their situation, it is best to let them know you’re there for them every step of the way during recovery. While addiction is serious no matter your age, this issue is becoming more prevalent among elderly individuals not only in the United States but internationally as well.

Enrolling in substance recovery programs can be beneficial because it allows another human being to reach out when the addict needs extra support. In addition there are many trustworthy substance abuse recovery centers that provide thorough support and care for elders.

What to Know About Recovery Centers

There are abuse treatment centers that are specifically created to meet the needs of elderly addicts. Some of these places have a staff that is able to communicate with older individuals and understand their problems, concerns or fears. In some cases, there may be extra support given by working with younger generations as well because they can better relate to the addiction issues being dealt with. In some situations, there are other types of physical care offered if one’s health is declining.

In addition, substance recovery programs for seniors typically offer treatment plans that are customized to each person’s unique situation. This allows them to receive treatment on a personal level instead of lumping everyone together in a group therapy session. Group sessions often do not have an environment that makes people feel comfortable opening up about their experiences. Open communication and honest conversation is an important part of the healing process.

An important part of many recovery programs is an appropriate focus on mental health. Many addicts struggle with depression and anxiety. It is important that these feelings are addressed.

Long-Term Treatment Options

One of the best aspects about substance recovery programs is that they are not short-term. Many recovery centers offer a long-term recovery plan. This can be beneficial for those who are simply tired of being sick or don’t have an adequate support system in place. These centers often have clients that stay with them for several months or even years depending on their personal situation. In addition, there are often options for out-patient care after the intensive work is complete.

The goal is to get the individual back into society and build a sense of community with others again. They may be tasked to work on building new relationships, rearranging living arrangements or considering new employment situations to avoid temptation in the future.


When dealing with an elderly addict, it is important that you handle the situation with tender love and care. These individuals are often very fragile and are using drugs to mask other aches and pains. Rather than inflicting shame, take time to learn about their struggles and prepare them for a successful future by enrolling them in a recovery center.

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