Alcoholism can strike anyone. In fact, today it's taking its toll on a demographic you may find shocking. According to a recent article on Web MD, seniors are the latest group to have an increasing alcoholism rate. According to the article, "40 percent of people over 65 drink, despite the facts that the body's ability to break down alcohol decreases with age and that alcohol can have dangerous synergy with many medications commonly taken by seniors." The article goes on to say the number of people over 50 with substance abuse problems is expected to increase from 2.8 million to 5.7 million by 2020.
So why is the baby boomer generation turning to drugs and alcohol so late in life?
According to Joseph Garbely, MD, medical director for Caron's Pennsylvania facility, this age group is turning to drugs and alcohol because of "stage-of-life issues." That can mean loss of independence, due to physical ailments and limitations, loss of friends and family, retirement, isolation and so much more. Add in medication and problems can arise. "When seniors fight the loneliness with alcohol, they may find that the one or two drinks they were able to have most of their lives suddenly gets them intoxicated. Or the alcohol may affect their medication in dangerous ways." For instance, mixing alcohol with blood pressure medication can cause dizziness, which can lead seniors to falling.
The article goes on to say that, "According to a 2013 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, there were at least 1,700 facilities offering senior-specific substance abuse programs out of about 18,000 total facilities." The trend of seniors using is, sadly, growing.
Unfortunately, painkiller abuse has also begun to plague this age group. The article states, "By 2012, those ages 50 to 59 made up the largest age group in opioid treatment programs in New York City."
Getting this older generation into rehab is often hard. Many think sure, grandpa drinks too much, but he's too old to do anything about it, so it's dismissed.
It's also harder for this group to get out and attend meetings. If there is a physical ailment, sometimes even the building where AA meetings are held can pose a problem. If a building only has stairs and no elevator and the elderly person is physically inhibited, then getting to those meetings becomes a mission.
But now that doctors are aware of the problem, more and more programs are being opened to help those seniors with addiction struggles. In Pennsylvania a specialized program for seniors has recently been started. The 10 beds, the article says, are always full, and 14 more are planned as part of an upcoming expansion.
This statistic is proof addiction can affect anyone, at any age. And that adequate therapy and learning how to cope with life's problems can help keep anyone at any age away from drugs and alcohol.
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