The population of senior citizens in the United States is growing at a rapid rate. Many of the elderly are Baby Boomers, people who were born between 1946 and 1964, when there was a huge surge in births. This generation grew up during the period that is referred to as “free love”, which was marked by experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Many of the people who were adolescents during this time started using drugs and alcohol, and their use turned into abuse and eventually addiction. Those who developed an addiction to substances may not have sought the necessary treatment, and as such, are still battling their demons during their Golden Years.
Drug abuse and addiction can also start later in life. Many senior citizens are confronted with a host of issues; financial difficulties, health problems, loneliness, and depression, for example. Elderly individuals that are dealing with these types of problems may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. Substances may help them feel better or numb the pain that they are experiencing. However, the effects of drugs or alcohol only last a short while, which leads to repeated use in order to experience the same effects. Repeated use leads to tolerance, and tolerance can lead to addiction.
To further compound the addiction problems that are plaguing senior citizens is the rise in prescription medications. Many seniors are prescribed painkillers like OxyContin or Percocet, to ease ailments, such as arthritis. Those who are suffering from depression may be prescribed benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, to help them cope with their symptoms. While these medications can be helpful, they are also highly addictive.
The growing problem of addiction among senior citizens has highlighted the importance of appropriate treatment for this age group. Many addiction specialists suggest that the elderly population requires a different approach to treatment than those who are younger than them. The reason? – The circumstances and needs of seniors are much different than younger individuals.