Addiction in Seniors: How Common Is It?

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Older man wondering about Addiction in Seniors

Drug and alcohol addiction in our senior population is much more common than one may realize. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), persons aged 65 and over represent 13 percent of the total population, but account for over one – third of all prescribed medications. Beyond that, the number of people over age 65 taking three or more prescription drugs has skyrocketed to half of all seniors in the last decade. Drug, and even alcohol, addiction within the senior population is of special concern. Alcohol is clearly the most often used drug among the senior population. In 2011, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 8.3 percent of persons aged 65 and older report binge drinking every month.

How Common is Addiction in Seniors?

Elderly man is concerned about addiction in seniors Yes, addiction among seniors is common, and it’s not surprising. It is also understandable. The incidents of addiction occurring in a population that is aging, that wants relief from both physical and mental pain, makes perfect sense that those seniors will seek help however they can. There is no end to the current supply of over-the-counter medications from which to choose and mix, no end to commercial advertisements for the latest drug company’s cure-all. It should come as no surprise that seniors with various ailments will be prescribed medication at an increasing rate parallel to scientific advancement. Although their ailments are legitimate, the effects of multiple prescription medications from multiple physicians all equals eventual addiction.

While easy access to prescription drugs may be a more modern trend, alcohol is a tacitly approved substance that many seniors grew up using freely, and so continue to do so in their retirement years. Alcohol addiction is part of an approved life style that seniors bring with them to their new found drug dependence. Alcohol is an easy remedy for the physical pain associated with an aging body, and the mental pain, depression, or grief associated with illness or loss that befalls people in their senior years.

How Much Is Too Much?

Whether a senior or a teen, drug and alcohol addiction is addiction. In fact, retiring baby boomers who grew up experimenting with drugs, don’t attach as much of a stigma to drug use in their senior years, especially if it’s prescribed by a physician for an ailment. But some do use illegal substances. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 4 percent of adults ages 60 to 64 report using illicit substances.


The consequences related to substance addiction in seniors are serious.

  • cognitive problems
  • depression
  • balance problems
  • insomnia
  • agitation
  • “doctor hopping”
  • loss of appetite


Pay careful attention to your senior loved one, and if you have concerns about possible addiction, consult this excellent Family Guide provided by The Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles. At a detoxification and rehabilitation center like The Hills, a professional staff can assist you and your senior through residential, outpatient, and home support therapies with insight and success. Don’t let senior addiction remain one of the best kept secrets.

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