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What is Senior or Older Adult Addiction?

Addiction is a disease of the body and the brain. The disease does not discriminate by age, race, religion, gender or any other demographic delineation. Addiction occurs with prescribed medication and illicit drugs and alcohol. That said, there is an ever growing demographic of elderly, including baby boomers who suffer from substance abuse. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., people 50 years and older who will need substance abuse treatment is increasing dramatically. From 2002-2006, those needing treatment for addiction were 2.8 million. That number is expected to grow to 5.7 million by 2020.

Older adults have access to large numbers of prescription drugs. At times, older adults confuse one medication for another and take prescribed medication incorrectly. Other times, these adults suffer from depression and anxiety with major life transitions occurring. Typical drugs that are prescribed and abused include:shutterstock_150773027

  • Vicodin
  • OxyContin
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Concerta
  • Adderall

Sometimes, older adults believe that prescribed medications are not addictive, so they start self-medicating their pain. 1 out of 8 people seeking treatment for all drug abuse (over the counter, prescribed, illicit) are over 50 years of age. Many older adults are using over the counter drugs in combination with alcohol worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The Florida Senior Addiction Epidemic

Florida is home to many seniors and baby boomers. Over 50 communities abound. The reality is many of these seniors are a long way from their families. They cope with the physical pains and emotional discomfort alone or in silence. Often their doctors and children are unaware of their addiction, or the doctors and family members believe that they are too old for treatment or why bother.

The quality of life under addiction is never easy. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health will degenerate quickly. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, respiratory problems, cancer, stroke, and many other diseases are affiliated with substance abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Senior (Older Adult) Addiction

chart for senior substance use

  • Increase in sense of isolation
  • New or increased agitation
  • Reliance upon sleep aids
  • Loss of interest in formally pleasurable activities
  • Increase in alcoholic drinking
  • Change in personal hygiene

Many of the baby boomers now in their 60s have had histories of illicit drug use in the past. Many have never stopped using drugs or alcohol. As the body ages, the brain and body’s ability to handle drugs and alcohol alters drastically.


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