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Among older adults, drug and alcohol are often called an invisible epidemic. The reason it got this name is that in seniors, people often mistake the symptoms as typical signs of aging. According to the Center for Applied Research Solutions, substance abuse is more common among the population younger than 60 (60%). Only 37% of those older than 60 are found to have a substance abuse problem.

Because of this, it will be hard to comprehend the following. Research conducted by the American Journal on Addictions found out that seniors older than 65:

  • User one-third of all drugs sold by prescription in the United States
  • Have more chances to be prescribed with opiates, stimulants, and/or benzodiazepines
  • Consume more than one prescribed drug which is commonly abused
  • Are becoming a population who asks for help with drug abuse through abuse treatment programs
Substance Abuse or Misuse in the Elderly
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With this trend expanding every year, the control of drug abuse in the elderly becomes a priority for medical authorities. Here we are going to try to help you recognize the signs of substance abuse in your loved ones.

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Drug Misuse and Drug Abuse

If you want to prevent or stop drug abuse in the elderly, first you need to know the difference between drug misuse and drug abuse.

Misuse is what happens by accident or from lack of knowledge, and you will notice it by the following signs:

  • When an older adult uses a drug to treat something that it was not originally intended for
  • When they use a medication that was prescribed for someone else
  • When your loved one is taking an amount of medicine which is not recommended on the package or by the doctor

Abuse, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing. It can be noticed by these two particular things:

  • If a senior takes the drug in order to feel “high” rather than using it for the right reason
  • When they create a pattern in their behavior of constant drug use

If it was a one-time thing, you shouldn’t raise the alarm. Your actions should be decided when you are positive whether its misuse or abuse, not before that, because the consequences might not be what you desired.

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Know the Signs of Drug Problems in the Elderly

Drug abuse in older adults can have similar symptoms to what you notice in seniors as the signs of aging. This includes memory loss, disorientation, mood swings, and depression. But even if these are typical signs of getting older, you should be worried if they are followed by changes in the following behavior:

  • If your senior starts complaining that the medications aren’t working
  • When they complain that the doctor won’t prescribe them more of the substance they use
  • A constant complaint that they need more of a specific medicine
  • When they use up the specified amount of drugs in a period of time shorter than they should
  • If they start changing doctors in order to get more of the medicine
  • Forging a prescription or using someone else’s

How to Help a Senior Who May Be Misusing Drugs

  • Educate them on the purpose of medications and risk that comes with misuse
  • Write them instructions on how to properly use and measure their meds
  • Try as much as you can to supervise your loved ones while they are taking the drugs
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How to Get Help for an Older Adult with a Drug Abuse Problem

  • Provide them with professional treatment
  • Talk to them about their problem and offer solutions, help, and support
  • Don’t be negative, offer a positive attitude—that might be all they need

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