The number of older adults who reported using illegal drugs within a year nearly doubled between 2002 and 2007, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Furthermore, use of nonmedical pharmaceuticals increased from 2.2 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in 2009. If these statistics continue to rise, it will lead to an epidemic in addiction among older Americans.
Economic and financial stress and retirement were reported as contributing factors as well. Almost half of the respondents named prescription drugs and alcohol as their substances of choice.
“Older adults face a distinct set of challenges as they enter their golden years,” said Dr. Barbara Krantz, medical director of Hanley Center. “This transitional period of life is unique and leads to difficulty in dealing with stressful situations, such as an early retirement or financial strains, which in turn may lead to serious anxiety and depression. Without the proper tools to manage their emotions, older adults turn to quick fixes such as alcohol and drugs, creating the perfect storm for dependency.”
The survey revealed the following facts:
- 40 percent of respondents consider themselves to be substance abusers after the age of 48;
- More than 90 percent of respondents named alcohol as one of the substances they abused;
- 49.5 percent of respondents reported prescription drug abuse;
- More than 40 percent of respondents said their families influenced their decision to seek treatment.
“We’ve made great strides by intervening on young people, but we continue to see an increase in boomers and seniors entering treatment,” said Krantz. “Many of these individuals have abused substances for a long time and that’s why they require a customized treatment plan.”
Source: Hanley Center