5 Signs of Addiction for Seniors

Senior Drug Abuse

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3) 5 Signs of Addiction for Seniors
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5) Substance Abuse on the Rise Among Elderly

Substance abuse and addiction are not limited to younger generations or adults; addiction rates among seniors are higher than you may think: more than one third of outpatient rehabilitation programs for substance use disorders are dedicated to senior citizens, despite their population encompassing only 13 percent of the entire population of the USA. Identifying substance use disorders among senior citizens (or adults over the age of 65) is imperative to prevent the development, or exacerbation, of multiple types of cancer, health conditions, and psychological disorders.


Medical care professionals can be hasty to glean over typical signs of substance use disorders in senior citizens, because of perceived attributes of older people: confusion, loss of memory, or unexplained mood swings; whereas these red flags would help diagnose a younger person with a substance use disorder, the medical field is apt to brand many older adults with “dementia” or similar conditions.

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Preventing the tragedy of overdose and swift treatment of an untreated substance use disorder can be avoided if you and your loved ones learn how to aptly identify instances of addiction- the more you know, the easier it will be to help your loved one’s medical professional make a proper diagnosis. Look out for these top five signs of addiction among senior citizens:

    1. Wildly Changing Mood Swings
      Akin to others with substance use disorders, wild mood swings are one of the easily identifiable symptoms of drug addiction among older adults. What may be glazed over by many as “Grandma is just being Grandma,” may actually be a legitimate cause of concern. Because addictive substances over time change one’s brain chemistry, ultimately their moods, behaviors, and entire personalities will also be adversely affected.
    2. Increases to Medication Prescriptions
      Even though senior citizens are commonly prescribed medications to treat health conditions ascribed to the coming of age, some medications are the source causing instances of substance use disorders. Abuse of prescription medications is commonplace, and should be closely monitored by medical professionals and loved ones. A spike in medication dosage may not be the cause of an increased medical need for the medication- but a response to a developed tolerance from abuse.

      The only way to accurately measure which one is responsible for the increase is to keep an open and honest relationship with your loved one. You may also monitor their prescription intake if you deem it necessary. Enlisting the help for your medical professional is always a good idea.
  • Doctor Shopping
    Doctor shopping is the search for multiple health practitioners who will prescribe medications one already has a prescription for. If you notice your loved one on the hunt for multiple practitioners, specifically with the intent of yet another prescription, this may be a legitimate cause for concern. Changing medical professionals frequently may be another indication of doctor shopping.
  • Bumps & Bruises
    Although seniors are more prone to bruising, multiple falls within a short period of time may be indicative of substance abuse. As one’s senses are robbed of their normal functioning, staying upright becomes more of a challenge than it ought to be. Not every instance of a bruise or falling is a red flag of addiction, but if you notice a pattern of falling, bruising, and accidents, talking to your loved one about the possibility of abuse may be in order.
  • Grandma’s Just Being Grandma: Confusion
    Perhaps one of the symptoms missed most often by medical professionals and loved ones alike are periods of confusion for senior citizens. While stints of confusion and paranoia may be ascribed to one getting “up in age,” these symptoms are red flags for potential substance use disorders, and should be monitored carefully- as opposed to being heavily medicated to cover up the symptoms of what may be an underlying problem.
doctor holding in his hand a shopping cart with a stethoscope inside, depicting the health care industry concept

doctor holding in his hand a shopping cart with a stethoscope inside, depicting the health care industry concept

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