If you’re concerned about an elderly relative who is struggling with addiction, you’ve come to the right place. While it is possible for senior individuals to get better, their addiction recovery treatment requires a unique and specialist approach.

Here, we explore everything there is to know and highlight what you can do if you’re concerned about someone you care about or even yourself.

Older People Can Become Addicts

Drug and alcohol addiction can affect anyone – whatever their age, gender, background or lifestyle. However, recent statistics show that addiction in older adults has been on the rise since the noughties. Experts are putting this down to a few different factors.

First, those who reached the legal drinking age in the 60s and 70s are now hitting retirement age. But also, because during the 60s and 70s, there was a change in how drugs and alcohol were viewed with more liberated attitudes.

Finally, addiction, mental health and associated treatment are more commonly spoken about nowadays. Information is readily available and the signs and symptoms to be aware of are more known too. This in itself could have a direct impact on the number of people accessing help and information.


The Problem of Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Older People

The most common addiction disorder among older adults is alcohol addiction, followed by prescription drug addiction. While both alcohol and prescription drugs are available readily, and over-the-counter, it doesn’t make this type of addiction any less serious compared to recreational drug addiction.

Addiction is a serious health condition that can impact health, finances, relationships and other aspects of your life. What’s more, as we age, our bodies and their natural defence system weaken which makes the elderly even more at risk of complications and, indeed, addiction.

Studies have also found that older adults are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and prescription drugs in order to treat a range of physical and psychological ailments. This is in comparison to the younger generation who are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as a result of curiosity. This makes it very difficult to recognise an addiction as often the signs and symptoms of the addiction in elderly can replicate the symptoms they are trying to treat.


Signs of Addiction in the Elderly

There are lots of different signs of addiction and these can vary from person to person. Typically, this includes wanting to stop but not being able to, experiencing side effects without the substance and continuing to take the substance despite the negative effects it’s having on your wider life.

If you notice that you or a loved one are spending a huge amount of money and effort to try and get a certain medicine or alcohol, or prescriptions are needing to be refilled quickly, this can also be a sign of addiction. However, there are a few additional signs of addiction in older people. This includes:

  • Memory loss or confusion
  • A change in sleeping patterns
  • Mental health concerns
  • Being distant or defensive

Addiction at any age is serious and it’s important that you seek professional help. This is because the addiction can have consequences on mental and physical health but there is a way out of it.


Treatments for Alcohol Abuse and Drug Addiction

Addiction recovery treatment can be effective – whatever your age and whichever type of addiction you have. The most important thing is that you seek help, and fast, whether it’s for yourself or a loved one. Often a GP might be your first port of call but, at Nova Recovery, our helpline is also available.

Our team includes medical professionals, trained doctors, counsellors, nurses and mental health experts – each of whom are experienced in addiction and recovery. After an initial discussion, we can recommend the best course of action.

While every rehab centre is different, typically a combination of treatment and therapy is used to combat the physical addiction and behavioural symptoms. Therapy focuses on the person fully, not just their addiction, and at Nova Recovery we take into account additional factors and struggles that elderly patients might be facing.

A key part of treatment, at any rehab centre, is a detox. This is where the drug or alcohol leaves the body. As the body and brain has built up a dependence, it’s completely normal to experience side effects and withdrawal symptoms. These can range from person to person but a team of doctors and nurses will monitor you and prescribe any medication to help.

Once this is complete, a programme of therapy can begin. Another benefit of choosing inpatient rehab is because it allows individuals to focus on getting better while meals are taken care of. Group sessions can also provide a vital support network for elderly individuals. At Nova Recovery, we also encourage participation in our extracurricular activities which are designed to help you to create healthier habits and routines.


Getting Help For Addiction

Whether you’re an individual struggling with addiction, a concerned family member or friend, or even a healthcare professional who looks after an elderly patient, the team at Nova Recovery is here. Not only can we answer your questions, but we can advise, guide and support. Plus, when you’re ready to take the next step, we can show you the way.

No matter how many years addiction has been gripping your life, there is a way out. In fact, we’ve helped so many people – of all ages – to get their life back on track and finally start living in a way they’ve always wanted.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 8, 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.