Substance abuse is not only for the young ones. A huge number of adults aged over 65 are into substance abuse. That is why they seek addiction treatment. The good thing about elderly individuals is they are more participative and comfortable with the treatment process. Thus, better outcomes in their addiction recovery. But sometimes they need extra help to overcome their addiction problems. With this, they need the best substance abuse treatment for seniors.                

How does substance abuse affect the elderly?

Alcohol addiction is the most common among older adults, but many indulge in substance addiction. Identifying the right route to recovery is challenging unless the root of addiction is identified. Isolation and loneliness often lead them to substance abuse.

Identifying their addiction problem is challenging, especially if they are in denial. They may not accept they are addicted because they think they know better. If you suspect that a senior member of the family is into alcohol or substance addiction, you must know the signs.

Signs and symptoms of substance abuse in older adults

Many seniors experiencing addiction are reluctant to seek help or treatment. Some symptoms are misleading. That is why family members and even professionals cannot recognize the symptoms. Addiction symptoms to the elderly are recognized because of getting old. Most common symptoms include sleep problems, complaining about physical pains, and low energy.

How treatment is provided for senior substance abuse

To recover from substance abuse, the first thing to do is undergo treatment both physical and psychological. It is because addiction often affects psychological aspects. Physical withdrawal from using the substance is more traumatic. With this, there are several treatment processes to follow.

  • Treatment begins with a supervised detox

The detox program is the first step in the treatment process. In this period, the individual is encouraged to withdraw or stop using the substance. Many rehabilitation centers offer a supervised and structured detox program. The program weans the elderly slowly off from using addictive substances. The duration of the weaning process depends on how the patient responds.

After the detox program, the therapy begins. Addiction counselors may conduct one-on-one sessions or group sessions to help the elderly recover from addiction. During the therapy, the family of the elderly patient also undergoes therapy to achieve a successful addiction rehab and treatment.

  • Inpatient vs. Outpatient treatment facilities for the elderly

If you want to help the elderly recover from addiction, you must determine the best option for rehabilitation. You can choose either an inpatient or outpatient facility. Each option offers advantages and disadvantages. Consider which one can answer the specific needs of the senior patient and the type of addiction. For example, more serious addictions such as those to meth are better treated at inpatient meth addiction treatment centers. Check the treatment options offered by the facility to successfully overcome the addiction of the patient. If the rehabilitation facility provides a systematic treatment, it would be a great help to the patient.

5 steps to improve outcomes in substance abuse in older patients

Often, older adults engaging in substance abuse may experience worse medical and neurological outcomes. It would cause an increase in economic burden. With this, it is essential to know the basic steps that will improve the results.

  • Addiction & substance use disorders

In the United States, the number of older adults with SUDs is increasing by approximately 5.7 million in the last quarter of 2020. According to research, older adults use psychoactive drugs triggered by psychosocial stressors and health-related issues. Misuse and addiction to a substance are also associated with increased risk and comorbidities.

  • Risk factors

The risk factors for substance use disorders include cognitive impairment and psychiatric disorders. It is essential to mitigate the progress of the SUD by addressing the risks involved. Studies show that the risk factor is proportional to the genetic relationship.

  • Consequences

Long-term and excessive use of substances can cause adverse neurological results. It can cause amnesia, ataxia, confusion, drowsiness, impaired reaction time, slowed psychomotor functioning, and incoordination. At worse, using psychoactive drugs can cause multiple medical complications.

  • Assessments

It is essential to seek medical help to get the proper treatment for a senior with SUD. Many people are hesitant to get medical assessments because they think about the stigma and shame associated with substance addiction. Early assessment is essential to rule out the disorder and eventually give the treatment.

  • Treatments

The treatment for substance abuse differs among younger and older adults. It is not enough to get medical treatment but also cognitive-behavioral approaches. The support of the family and friends is significant to a better and faster recovery of the individual.


Early assessment and treatment can help to mitigate the progress of substance abuse. If anyone from your family, especially the older adults, indulges in substance abuse, take the action at once.

Article specially prepared for by John Lewis.

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