Signs of Addiction in the Elderly


People tend to consider addiction as something that primarily affects young people and that older generations “know better” than to get involved with drinking and drugs. Unfortunately, this very misconception has been shrouding the reality of just how many seniors and aging people are struggling with substance misuse. The Baby Boomers are showing high levels of substance use disorder, more than previous generations, signifying that the disease of addiction can impact people regardless of age. Recognizing the patterns of elderly substance misuse and potential addiction can prevent geriatric substance use disorder and accidental overdose, among many other ailments that can come with untreated addiction.


Substance Misuse among Seniors

It’s important to understand that older folk who struggle with addiction may have hidden this misuse for a long time. Despite a late diagnosis, they’ve developed their dependency and coping mechanisms involving drugs or alcohol long before it became apparent. What can accelerate substance use among the aging population is their increased access to prescription medications through medical providers or care facilities and spending a significant time alone, where no one is monitoring their habits. Along with the physical decline of aging, the elderly are also faced with the emotional side, including loss of mobility, death of loved ones, and an overall decrease in quality of life.


How to Spot Addiction in Older Adults

Generally, the signs of substance use disorder are applicable across all ages, but seniors may exhibit some unique symptoms that indicate they are misusing drugs or alcohol:

  • Unusually secretive behavior, hiding bags or other items away and feeling protective of them

  • Disinterest in usual hobbies or social life

  • Uncharacteristic aggressiveness or hostile behavior without reason

  • A drastic change in personal appearance and hygiene

  • Mood swings from giddiness and elation to irritability and anger

  • Sudden forgetfulness and memory loss

  • Strange sleeping patterns

  • Feeling unwell often or signs of an unknown illness

A challenging issue regarding elderly addiction is deciphering what part of aging is and what behaviors are problematic. Far too often, caretakers dismiss signs of addiction as part of getting older, which can quickly lead to fatal results if consistently overlooked. There are many more issues that the elderly deal with that can conceal signs of addiction, making these cases even more difficult to handle. Seniors also tend to suffer from late-onset mental illness, dementia, and other complications that come as side effects of a disease, presenting similar behaviors to intoxication or addiction. Ultimately, many aging people who are aware of their issues with substance misuse also struggle with shame or embarrassment and become argumentative or distant when questioned about their drinking or consumption habits.


Recovery Services of New Mexico provides addiction treatment for adults of all ages, including seniors. Experienced and specialized medical providers are equipped to help the aging population who may be struggling with substance use disorder with the use of evidence-based methods and FDA-approved medications. Conveniently located outpatient RSONM clinics accept Medicare and make recovery easy for people who want to take control over their lives from addiction. Message or call a nearby location

today to learn more about the recovery programs available at RSONM.