You might not think that the elderly suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, but there are more and more older adults in America that are facing these challenges. In fact, in 1998, government health officials realized there was going to be a trend of elder substance abuse. Along these lines, in the 1990’s, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also predicted a significant increase in abuse among those over the age of 60. However, it’s only recently that we’ve seen this prediction come into fruition. More and more reports indicate that the elderly may be experiencing substance abuse.

According to the journal Addiction, which published a 2008 study on the elderly population and addiction, there are approximately 2.8 million Americans over the age of 50 with a substance use disorder. This study also found a trend that could lead to over 5.7 million Americans over the age of 50 with a substance use disorder by the year 2020.

Yet, current statistics indicate that there is already a significant drug abuse problem among the elderly. For instance, there were 700,000 emergency room discharges for adults over the age of 65 in 2012. That same year, there were 72,000 inpatient hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions.

With the rise of addictions among the elderly population come more medical costs. As mentioned above, older adults may have to receive addiction treatment, visit the emergency room, or attend outpatient treatment. These programs cost money, which adds to the general health costs that the elderly tend to face already. In fact, it is estimated that Medicare costs will rise to $9 trillion by the year 2020. Of course, drinking and drug use can contribute to and exacerbate health conditions, which can also create more health costs.

In general, statistics reveal that there are more people in this particular population. In other words, there are more people aging in America. This particular demographic will require the attention of health professionals, mental health providers, and direct care workers to tend to their physical and psychological concerns.

What’s important to keep in mind is that many elderly men and women may already be on certain medication for their health concerns. When those are mixed with alcohol or recreational drug use, there might be additional problems. Furthermore, long-term drinking or drug use might have contributed to certain health conditions, which can in turn, inspire more substance use, especially if someone is in physical pain. Lastly, there are many older adults who have become addicted to painkillers. Although this type of medication is frequently prescribed to manage pain, they are also incredibly addictive. If not taken as prescribed, these medications can cause the harmful cycle of addiction in one’s life.

Sadly, there is little media coverage and hardly any discussion about elder substance abuse. However, there is always help for anyone, regardless of their age. If you know of someone over the age of 50 who is struggling with an addiction, call for help.

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