Studies show that as many as 17 percent of American seniors may have alcohol abuse problems or alcoholism, yet this group is greatly underrepresented in addiction treatment programs.
Studies also show that when seniors do participate in addiction treatment programs, they show greater than average treatment compliance, are more likely to finish a recommended course of treatment and more likely to avoid relapse. Treatment for seniors works, but too many seniors never get the treatment they need.
Seniors are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and prescription drugs. They do not metabolize these psychoactive substances as well or as quickly as younger people, and they are more likely to mix alcohol or psychoactive medications with other medications that can result in dangerous drug interactions. What may not seem like excessive drinking in an older adult may in fact be enough to cause significant intoxication and serious health consequences.
Once in treatment, seniors tend to stay committed to their long-term recovery. Convincing a senior who is abusing drugs or alcohol to get addiction treatment can lead to increased health and cognitive functioning, a decrease in the risks of mental health disorders, and in many cases, to additional years of life.
If an older adult you know and love is drinking too much or abusing medications, you can and should intervene.