Recognizing Addiction and the Elderly

Updated 1 year ago by David Williams, HNN Freelance Correspondent

The hospital that I work at has treated many elderly patients for addiction.  Many people may not even realize their older relatives may have an addiction problem.

 Although the problem is growing, elder addiction has long been a problem that has slipped past many people. 


When my grandparents came to live with us in the early 80's, my mother was alarmed to discover how many pills my grandmother was taking.  In those days, it was easier for doctors to push pills and insurances would pay.  My grandmother had a large assortment of benzos and opoids.  


My grandmother complained of chronic pain like many elderly experience.  Doctors used to throw painkillers out there as an solution.  My grandmother had problems sleeping.  The doctors wpuld give her medecine that when mixed with painkillers could be quite dangerous because they impact breathing.


There are several problems besides overdosing that affect the elderly.  The use of medications can cause the person to be dizzy and fall.  These falls can cause fractures.  Dizziness may even lead to car accidents if they still drive.


The medications may even hurt their cognitive abilities and their memories.

Many of the elderly live alone.  Their children may not even realize that they are abusing medications or alcohol because many of the effects  such as slurred speech, dozing off and confusion are normal behaviors of aging.  


Many factors can trigger senior citizens and lead to chemical dependance.  Life-changing challenges include retirement, loss of spouces or friends, depression due to loneliness or a feeling their are not needed.  


It is necessary to ask many questions to determine if your elderly love ones are abusing tjeir medication.  Often, they do not feel they are because their prescriptions came from a doctor.  They may not even understand the danger of drinking alcohol with the medication..


A person is never to old to get help with addiction problems.  Please seek help if you do not like the answers to the questions you ask.


It is not always to recognize addiction issues in the elderly but foing so can prevent an unnecessary tragedy and add to your loved ones' quality of life.


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