Drug and alcohol addiction isn’t only a problem for young men and women. Every year thousands of older adults seek help in rehab centers across the nation to combat their addiction. 

Drug and alcohol addiction can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of age. There are cases of men and women over the age of 50 struggling with addiction. If an older loved one or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, Unity Behavioral Health may be able to help. 

The most abused substance in the older generation is alcohol. Around 3 million seniors over the age of 65 struggle with alcohol abuse and the numbers are rising steadily. Luckily, it is not too late to get treatment.

Drug Addiction as a Senior

Drug and alcohol addiction can be extra difficult for older adults, with a variety of different obstacles (which are not seen in younger addicts). As the body ages, addiction can become much harder to combat. 

Struggles of Getting Treatment

It can be hard to seek treatment as an older adult because of some of the barriers that arise with age. These obstacles alone can make it hard for someone to accept their situation and seek help. Some of the factors that affect a senior’s ability to get help are:

  • Isolation
  • Untreated depression
  • Stigmas
  • Lack of mobility
  • Loneliness
  • Lack of motivation

Addiction Rehab for SeniorsWhile the body might react differently to addiction and treatment than that of a younger addict, treatment is still essential to living a healthier and cleaner lifestyle. Regardless of age, everyone deserves a chance to be free of drug and alcohol addiction. 

When in treatment, some seniors may struggle because of age. Mental decline can lead to a person taking a prescription drug too often or in the wrong amount. This can lead to negative effects and only reinforces the need for medical professionals to avoid problems. At Unity Behavioural Health, we make sure to be right by your loved one’s side until the end of treatment. 

How Addiction Affects Seniors

As people get older, more challenges begin to present themselves as time goes on. For older adults, declining health, grief, happiness, isolation, and financial problems (among others) can cause distress for older adults. 

These factors can lead to depression, emotional distress, and in some cases drug addiction. It is not uncommon to be prescribed a series of medications as you get older but when these are mixed with alcohol or drugs in cases, this is where real problems can begin. 

Drug or alcohol abuse can be especially dangerous for older adults because they are much more vulnerable to the damaging effects of these substances. Adults over the age of 65 have a lowered ability to metabolize drugs and their brains are more sensitive to them. 

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction in Seniors

When unmonitored, addiction can develop within seniors without even being noticed. There are a number of different signs that can be easily missed by family members, friends, and even medical professionals in some cases. 

Some drugs can end up mimicking the symptoms of other health disorders, such as dementia or diabetes. This can make spotting an addiction even harder and more dangerous in the long run. For these reasons, it is extra important to spot these specific signs and recognize an addiction before it’s too late. 

Signs and symptoms of senior drug abuse include:

  • Change in sleep habits
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Irritable
  • Sadness 
  • Depression
  • Trouble with memory
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Unexplained chronic pain
  • Wanting isolation often
  • Losing touch with close family or loved ones
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Worsened hygiene (bathing and keeping clean)

While it may be tough to spot addiction, it is important to stay alert and get medical help as soon as possible. If you are concerned that a loved one or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction as a senior, Unity Behavioral Health may be able to help. 

Treating Addiction in Older Adults

As with most drug addiction treatment, seniors will undergo treatments for physical dependence and psychological help during this period. While there are certain precautions that must be taken with older adults, the road to recovery is still achievable and possible. 

Unity offers a wide variety of age-specific treatment catered specifically to older adults. We believe that age shouldn’t stop you from living a better life. Our passionate staff is accommodating and careful in making sure all safety precautions are evaluated and secured for all older adults. 

Detoxification (Detox)

Detoxification is one of the very first steps towards addiction recovery and this is no different for older adults. Detoxification (or detox for short) refers to the process of completely ridding the body of a substance or alcohol in a safe and monitored environment. 

Older adults will be evaluated to pinpoint any other medications they may be taking to treat other disorders; this evaluation will help avoid any negative interactions. Other medical conditions will also be looked at before dispensing certain medications.

Benzodiazepines, which are typically administered during drug and alcohol detox, can cause lingering cognitive (or toxic) effects in older adults. This is an example of how senior detox needs to be done with extra care and evaluation. At Unity Behavioural Health, our trained medical staff will be patient and accommodating during detox to make sure everything goes smoothly and safely.

Inpatient or Residential Treatment  

Inpatient treatment (also known as residential treatment) allows for a variety of different resources and treatment options as a resident in a trusted residential environment like Unity. We provide individual and group therapy, 12-step programs, counseling with qualified medical staff, and support groups. 

These different treatment options will be catered and personalized for an older adult. We understand that living in a new environment can be an overwhelming experience for seniors, but we’ll be by your side every step of the way to ensure comfort and most of all, recovery. 

Residential treatment can also be customized for comorbid mental illness cases. In a situation where an older adult is taking multiple medications for other conditions, it is important to be aware and on the same page about these medications to ensure a safe recovery. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment offers the same sessions and resources as an inpatient treatment program, except these are done through weekly sessions. Outpatient treatment programs are for more mild cases of addiction and lend a level of convenience. 

For older adults, outpatient treatment is a possibility and offers a personalized schedule. Depending on the severity and condition of the addiction, the person can meet with medical professionals 3 to 4 times a week. While outpatient treatment might not be as effective as a residential program, it can still work as a solid rehab for older adults. 

Therapy Options for Older Adults

Therapy is one of the best ways to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Behavioral therapy helps people recognize the correlation between specific triggers, negative thoughts, and subsequent actions. It is important to understand these emotional or social triggers in older adults, factors that are usually not present in younger individuals. 

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is particularly effective when treating older adults. This type of therapy helps a person recognize the importance of change and help them understand acceptance. Its non-confrontational style helps break some of the stigmas around age and addiction. 

Residential treatment provides these therapy options on a more readily-available level (in addition to monitoring medication during the process). With the right state of mind and motivation, recovery is possible and reachable. 

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

While finishing treatment is a big accomplishment, it is important to remain in treatment to avoid relapses. A relapse is a return to drug or alcohol abuse, this occurrence can be especially dangerous for older adults. 

After continuous use of drugs or alcohol, the person’s body can build up a large tolerance. Detox removes these toxins and resets the chemical changes in the brain. However, if a person were to resort back to abusing drugs or alcohol, this could tip the balance of tolerance and cause a person to take a much larger dose, resulting in dangerous effects (potential overdose). 

To avoid relapses down the road, it is highly beneficial to enroll in self-help and 12-step programs. These can provide a safe environment for the person to open up about their thoughts while listening to others in the same situation. Alcohol or drug rehab for seniors is an essential step to recovery and staying on this path is also part of the journey. 

Get Treatment Today

If you are concerned that a close family member or someone you know may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, Unity is the place to go. Our effective age-specific program allows for a safe and comfortable environment for recovery. 

After looking at the signs of potential addiction within an older relative or friend, it is important to act fast. Enrolling in a  trusted rehab for older adults like Unity Behavioral Health is the next step. Check out our website or contact us for more information on senior treatment options.

Get Help Now

Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.


24 Hr HELPLINE : 561-708-5295