By Rohit Agarwal
Recent studies and theories show that elderly citizens of all countries seem to be affected by what appears to be a rebellious nature to prevent themselves from becoming delusional or losing control of themselves. This is dangerous not because of their change in nature but because of the reason behind this change, because leading studies have also shown that the elderly face a new trouble: drug addiction.
Unlike in youngsters, drug abuse and addiction in the elderly comes from prescription drugs that were meant to make the person psychoactive or sedated, and from sleep medications and pain killers that they often take in large doses. This can be a major problem for both the elderly person and their caregiver. To address this problem, follow these guidelines.
Symptoms Suggesting Drug Abuse Amongst The Elderly
Here’s what to look out for, any one or a combination of these symptoms:
- Decline in personal grooming and hygiene
- Starting to appear unkempt and/or dirty
- Pleas for help to combat pain
- Exhibiting signs of sickness when stopping their medications
- A loss of memory including blackouts and loss of interest in various activities
- A sudden loss of appetite
- Quick mood changes
- Recurrent falls and unexplained bruises
- Financial problems although the person never was financially insecure
Especially in the case of elderly in need of healthcare, a stunning 13-14% of the elderly can be subject to severe cases of depression. Don’t mistake this as simple signs of aging or perils of growing old. More often than not, drugs have a major role to play in this, and as these signs develop, one must stay vigilant to try to find out exactly where, when and how this problem cropped up. This can be instrumental in helping resolve the entire problem.
Reasons For Drug Abuse Amongst The Elderly
More often than not, each and every one of the reasons stated below snowball into depression and anxiety and finally leave the elderly with no choice but to take mind-altering drugs for momentary peace. The reasons could include:
- Chronic pain
- Family problems
- Financial hardships and issues
- Absence of work
- Idle mind
- Loss of loved ones
- Separation or divorce
- Mental health
- Societal problems
- Previous history of substance abuse
An estimated 20% of the adults over the age of 65 take painkillers for various reasons, like the ones stated above. All of these excuses have background causes and issues that cannot be easily curbed. But the elderly can be looked after with care and affection avoid these issues. Once they start feeling lonely, depressed or anxious, problems can accumulate and take a big toll on their lives.
Steps To Prevent Addiction In The Elderly
After symptoms and causes are scrutinized, the next step in getting over drug addiction is treatment by the caregiver or a doctor, which may include:
- Addiction support groups can make a big difference in the lives of affected elderly. Others dealing with the same problems and difficulties often find solace in each other and support one another.
- A visit to a therapist can work wonders. When they are questioned about their problems, the elderly can be guided towards finding ways to get over their drug abuse and start leading a life without the causing pain, misery or anxiety.
- Information about the dangers of drug abuse can be helpful. Older adults may be unaware of the risks of using these substances. Both caregivers and the elderly may lack knowledge of drug side-effects and be aware of the addiction. They can be provided with printed, visual, and auditory aids to emphasize important points.
- Addiction rehabilitation centers can also be used for cases where the elderly have become extremely delusional or have suffered from substance abuse for long periods of time. In some cases, addiction can evolve into schizophrenia, and that must be dealt with great care.
- Developing laws prevent pain killers, sleep medications and other drugs from being prescribed to the elderly in ways that may later result in addiction.
If the final outcome of this process is satisfactory for both the elderly person and the caregiver, society at large will also benefit. Remember that the biggest problem these people face is accepting the addiction. Once that is accomplished, everything else more easily falls into place.
Rohit Agarwal is a developing writer and is associated with the Pathways Real Life Recovery program. He has a keen interest in medical related topics and is always on a lookout for developments in this field.