Friday, October 10, 2014
Although some think substance abuse is a problem for the young, a recent story in the New York Times dispels that thought. More Older Adults Are Struggling With Substance Abuse ran October 3, 2014 looks at the number of elders who are substance abusers-whether drugs or alcohol. The numbers are surprising:
An estimated 2.8 million older adults in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, and this number is expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, according to a study in the journal “Addiction.” In 2008, 231,200 people over 50 sought treatment for substance abuse, up from 102,700 in 1992, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency.
Although alcohol abuse seems to rank first, the "rate of illicit drug use among adults 50 to 64 increased from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 6.0 percent in 2013" according to the story. The article mentions several studies, not only looking at the extent of the abuse, but the reasons behind these addictions. Although for some, retirement may be a catalyst, many times it is not the sole reason, "'with the conditions leading to retirement, and the economic and social nature of the retirement itself, having a far greater impact on substance use than simple retirement itself..."' Some of the "firsts" experienced in later life, such as deaths of spouses and friends, may be a contributing factor that requires "coping skills" these folks haven't had to yet possess.
The article also touches on the potential lack of doctor training on dealing with elder patients with substance abuse issues, and notes some symptoms associated with dementia may have similar symptoms to those of addictions.