Seniors and Substance Abuse

Posted on

Jul 21, 2021

To learn more about Salt Lake Behavioral Health, CLICK HERE.
Seniors and abuse of substances;we know what it looks like; thewarning signs, the dangers. But whydo we hesitate to act? Do we struggle seeing an older adult as someone who needs addiction treatment?
I have worked in acute seniorbehavioral health for over 20 years.My position involved screening olderadults referred for acute behavioralhealth behaviors that put themselves and others at risk includingsubstance abuse. In meeting withthousands of seniors and theirfamilies a pattern immerged wherebyuse of substances was often vieweddifferently than when it occurredwith younger adults and also treateddifferently. Abuse of substances wasoften viewed as a social or medicalproblem, not addiction, just gettingforgetful and taking too many painpills, social drinking or needingsleeping pills for sleep issues. If anaddiction was diagnosed a typicalresponse was to refer to a medicalhospital for a medical detox instead
of a specialized addiction medicineprogram for comprehensive assessment and treatment.
Symptoms:
1 Feeling that you have to use thedrug regularly and frequently
2 Hiding yourdrug use.
3 Taking increasing larger amountsof the drug
4 Spending money on the drug youcant afford
5 Not meeting obligations/cuttingback on activities becauseof drug use
6 Continuing to use the drug, despite it causing relationship issues, physical or psychological harm
7 Doing illegal, dangerous or unethical things to get the drug
8 Driving or doing other riskyactivities when youre under theinfluence
9 Spending a good deal of time getting the drug or recovering fromthe effects
10 Failing in attemptsto stop
11 Experiencing withdrawalsymptoms when you attemptto stop
Potential causes/contributing factors:
Addiction is a complex matter andis usually much more than a medical issue. With older adults thereare medical, social and financialchallenges that while not unique to
seniors, are often a significant contributing factor. Impaired reasoningcan also be at play with dementiaand medications. It is important toconsider if a person is self-medicated Seniors and Sing untreated mental health issuesand trauma. All of these factorsshould be comprehensively assessedand treated. A medical detox is onlythe first step, the underlying mental
health and behavioral aspects of addiction also need to be addressed.
There are many different typesand levels of specialized addictiontreatment that can help. Medicareand most private insurances coveraddiction treatment. '
Editors Note: This article was submittedby Nina Ferrell of Salt Lake Behavioral Health. She can be reached at 801-264-6000 or nina.ferrell@uhsinc.com

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