By Cheryl Steinberg
The thing about drug addiction is that it affects all people, across gender, socio-economic, age, and ethnic lines. And that’s becoming more and more apparent as a heroin scourge spreads the nation. First, we wrote about how heroin has become the drug of choice among white, middle-class, suburbia.
But, you might be shocked to find out that the next population being most affected by the heroin epidemic is the Baby Boomers generation, who are now around 45 – 64 years of age.
After all, these are our parents and grandparents. It’s kind of hard to picture ol’ grandma shooting up in the bathroom, don’t you agree?
U.S. Heroin Epidemic Now Rampant Among Baby Boomers
However, this is the reality. In fact, the cases of heroin-related deaths among Baby Boomers have nearly quintupled from 516 in 2000 to 2,459 in 2013, the Times Union reports.
Bottom line: Older Americans are a growing sector in the heroin-addicted population in the U.S.
There are a few theories behind the “emerging epidemic,” or the trend among Baby Boomers who have turned to heroin.
First off, it’s important to know that seniors are prescribed more drugs than any other segment of the total population, and of these prescribed drugs, we’re not just talking heart and cholesterol pills. Of these prescription drugs, the majority are opioid pain relievers and anti-anxiety drugs – mostly benzos, like Xanax and Valium.
And, in this pill-popping society where everyone’s just looking for that magic bullet to solve their problems, the medical community reflects this in their overall mentality of ‘medicate-first,’ which only serves to make matters worse.
“What initially becomes a way of managing that pain can, over time, lead them to needing more of the painkiller,” Nicole MacFarland, executive director of Senior Hope, a nonprofit outpatient clinic in Albany for people 50 years and older, told the Times Union. “Their body develops a tolerance and, lo and behold, they wind up becoming very addicted.”
The rise in heroin use can also be attributed to the pill mill crackdowns and other strategies governments have been enacting in order to address the painkiller abuse sweeping the land. In an unfortunate twist (although foreseeable in this writer’s eyes), the tighter regulation on narcotic painkillers led to a revival of heroin use. We’ve seen it among the affluent, suburbia, and now the elderly.
The problem is that there was this nationwide crackdown on painkillers yet there was no plan in place as to how to deal with all the people who had become dependent on and even addicted to painkillers.
And just as we have seen with other “surprising populations” that have turned to heroin, older adults are also turning to heroin when the painkillers they are getting just aren’t enough to treat their pain. For example, the number of patients at Senior Hope whose main addiction was heroin increased from six patients in 2012 to 17 in 2014, out of 155 patients.
An issue specific to the Baby Boomer population when it comes to drug abuse is that weaning older adults from an opiate addiction can be complicated, since they need often need pain medication for other ailments such as chronic pain.
Again, substance abuse, misuse, and addiction are non-discriminating medical situations, meaning that anyone can be affected at any time. So, although it might be hard to picture certain people using heroin or other drugs, it’s just as likely as for anybody else to be using. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Mother doesn’t always know best, especially if she is among the growing number of elderly, between the ages of 57 and 85, who is abusing drugs.
Let’s face it, when you think of drug addiction, you don’t think of the elderly but, the fact is, one quarter of prescription drugs sold in the U.S. are used by the elderly, often for problems such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. And the medications that are typically prescribed for such conditions – narcotic pain killers, sleeping pills and tranquillizers – are common medications of abuse.
Statistics of Elderly Drug Addiction
Approximately 80% of all senior citizens have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have at least two chronic health conditions. Nine out of every ten senior citizens (between the ages of 57 to 85) use a combination of OTC medication, dietary supplements, and prescription drugs. About three in ten seniors use at least five prescriptions on a daily basis. Between 1997 and 2008, the rate of hospital admissions among the elderly for medication- and illicit drug- related conditions grew by 96% and, for people 85 and older, that number grew by 87%.
Findings show that, as people continue to age, they are more likely to use more prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter (OTC) medications than their younger counterparts. Elderly drug addiction can bring about several harmful and tragic consequences such as drug-induced delirium and dementia and elderly patients should undergo testing to see if their memory loss or mental confusion is due to medication rather than the early onset of Alzheimer’s. Elderly drug abuse can also mimic other problems that are typically common in older adults.
These findings clearly show that there is a relationship between substance abuse and mental illness and further validate the growing need to address the prevention of prescription misuse and abuse among the elderly population.
Why the Elderly
There are physical, psychological and social factors that lead to elderly drug addiction. The elderly may become dependent on drugs that were prescribed to deal with joint pain and arthritis, sleeping problems or injuries from falls. The elderly also tend to lose loved ones at a higher and faster rate and so dealing with grief and sadness, which can increase drug dependence. Another factor: being far from loved ones and family may also increase the risk of elderly drug abuse because they are lonely or bored. Also, keep in mind, addiction can affects anyone so age doesn’t matter. In fact, studies show that 15% of the population has an inclination toward addiction; the elderly have that same inclination.
Signs of Elderly Drug Addiction
The main sign that an elderly person might be addicted to a medication is if they are constantly thinking about it and worrying that they will not be able to function without it. Another common warning sign of elderly drug addiction is when they start taking their medication at different times and at different doses from what was prescribed to them.
Other Signs of Elderly Drug Addiction
- If they used to take 1 or 2 pills a day, and now they are taking 4 or 6 a day
- Their behavior or mood has changed; they are argumentative, withdrawn, and anxious
- They give excuses as to why they need the pills and get defensive when confronted
- They always have an emergency supply in their purse or pocket, just in case
- Have they ever been treated by a physician or hospital for excessive use of pills?
- They change/go to multiple doctors and/or pharmacies;
- They sneak or hide prescription pills
Elderly drug addiction is not something that should be overlooked or underestimated. Most of us when we think of drug abuse don’t usually think of our parents or grandparents but they can suffer too and if that is the case they also can benefit from the help provided by a drug abuse treatment center.
If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
Alcoholism is a considered a family disease meaning that it does not only affect the alcoholic; it affects the loved ones of the alcoholic. An alcoholic can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime. According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), seventy six million American adults have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Alcoholism is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause. One out of every four families has problems with alcohol.
5 Ways Alcoholism is a Family Disease
1. Family Dysfunction – Family dysfunction refers to conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse that occurs continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal and thus perpetuate this family disease when they grow up and have their own families.
2. Financial Woes – Financial stress is the number one cause of arguments and fights amongst couples, in general. Add the cost of supporting a habit such as alcoholism, and the stress factor goes up. Alcoholics need a way to support their alcohol habit. Whether the alcoholic is consuming a lot or a little, it is usually a daily need and that all adds up. Besides directly spending money on alcohol, alcoholism can lead to loss of a job (and therefore the loss of household income) and exorbitant fines for alcohol-related offences such as DUI’s, court costs, lawyer fees, etc. In this way, alcoholism’s effects can be seen as a family disease.
3. Marital problems – Alcoholism as a family disease also manifests as a wedge that forms between partners. Fighting, trust issues, depression, fear (walking on egg shells), anxiety, and codependency are all common to an alcoholic relationship. Codependency is defined as a psychological condition and describes behaviors, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or caretaking. Statistically, separated and/or divorced men and women were three times as likely as married men and women to say they had been married to an alcoholic.
4. Health – The family disease of alcoholism includes both mental and physical health issues. The latest research supports the heredity of this family disease. Genetics combined with an alcoholic environment leads to an increased risk of alcoholism amongst children of alcoholics (COAs). COAs have been found to have a higher rate of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Some of these symptoms include crying, lack of friends, fear of going to school, nightmares, perfectionism, hoarding, and excessive self-consciousness. Young children affected by this family disease may have frequent nightmares, bed wetting, and crying. This family disease tends to affect older children differently. They may show such depressive symptoms as isolating, hoarding, obsessive perfectionism, or being excessively self-conscious. Furthermore, the family disease of alcoholism correlates with an increased rate of suicide among COAs and, on average, they have total health care costs that are 32% greater than children of non-alcoholic families.
5. Prevalence of abuse – Alcoholism is more strongly correlated to child abuse than depression and other disorders. Studies have found that substance abuse such as alcoholism is a factor in nearly four-fifths of reported cases of domestic abuse and that alcoholism is more prevalent among child-abusing parents. Alcoholism is a family disease because it affects everyone in the family unit. Furthermore, this is a family disease because it is often replicated and perpetuated when the abused COAs start families of their own.
If you or your family have been affected by alcoholism, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
There are 18 million alcoholics in the U.S. according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. As a result, an estimated 26.8 million children are exposed, at varying degrees, to alcoholism in the family and are children of alcoholics. These children are at higher risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than are children of non-alcoholics, and are more likely to marry an alcoholic as well. Children of alcoholics or addicts are commonly referred to as “COA.”
For years and years, all the efforts at understanding and treating alcoholism have focused primarily on alcoholics and the havoc this disease has brought to their lives. Later, groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen examined the effects that alcoholism had on the relatives and friends of alcoholics. Most recently, national Children of Alcoholics groups have drawn considerable attention to this subject. Five years ago, there were only 21 members of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics; today this organization has swelled to more than 7,000 members.
Growing up in a family where one or both of the parents are alcoholic can be extremely painful and emotionally traumatic to the point where even many years later the child of the alcoholic, now an adult, will still be suffering from the scars. And this can lead many children of alcoholics to become alcoholics themselves. The roles and responsibilities that children of alcoholics take on as well as their idea of normal are extremely skewed and warped. It is very common that children of alcoholics become “superchildren” responsible for running the family, feeding their alcoholic parents, while also living in constant fear of their alcoholic parents. They also feel guilt about not being able to save their alcoholic parents. All of these emotions as well as poor self-image and an inability to have satisfactory relationships can cause many children of alcoholics to turn to exactly what they hated about their alcoholic parents; alcohol, in order to cope with it all.
Some other characteristic of children of alcoholic parents are that they:
- Guess at what normal is.
- Have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.
- Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
- Judge themselves without mercy.
- Have difficulty having fun.
- Take themselves very seriously.
- Have difficulty with intimate relationships.
- Overreact to changes over which they have no control.
- Constantly seek approval and affirmation.
- Feel that they are different from other people.
- Are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
- Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.
These psychological scars as well as the genetic traits for alcoholism result in a very high percentage of alcoholism, 25 percent, among children of alcoholics who turn into alcoholics themselves. They literally become alcoholic children of alcoholics. Even if the child of an alcoholic doesn’t become an adult alcoholic, other psychological problems may result, such as obsessive-compulsive disorders and the unrealistic need to be perfect. Alcoholic children of alcoholics or adult children of alcoholics who aren’t alcoholics may also suffer from codependency issues either from drugs and drinking themselves or because of living with someone who has basically stopped functioning as a human being, their alcoholic parents.
If you or someone you love is an alcoholic child of an alcoholic, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
Drug abuse doesn’t discriminate between age, sex, race, location, or even economic status. Drug abuse can happen to anyone including older adults; in fact drug abuse in older adults has more than doubled from 2.7 percent to 6.2 percent between 2002 and 2009.
The rise in drug abuse in older adults may have something to do with the fact that the older adults today were the well-known and iconic baby boomers who lived through the 60s, 70s and 80s. There are many different factors that play into drug abuse in older adults but social and physical changes can leave older adults especially vulnerable to drug abuse issues. For instance, the loss of loved ones, retirement or job changes, changes in income, and juggling multiple roles can cause some older adults to begin engaging in drug abuse.
Older adults also tend to be prescribed medication or use prescription drugs as a way to self-medicate things like anxiety or depression and while they may not be using it to party like their teen counterparts they are still abusing the substances. Unfortunately drug abuse in older adults also tends to have a bigger impact on their physical and mental health in comparison to the younger generations. Older adults have a slower metabolism and this can increase their sensitivity to drugs and the effects drug abuse has on them.
Luckily drug abuse in older adults is just as easily treated as in anyone else the only struggle is getting older adults into treatment. Many older adults resist going into a drug and alcohol treatment program for help with drug abuse. They may be too ashamed to admit that they have a problem or to seek help on their own. Some families have to use an intervention method to get their loved one help for their drug abuse. Once older adults are in drug and alcohol treatment they are more successful at getting and staying sober. Many older adults in treatment for drug abuse feel as if it is their last shot to “get it right.”
Other older adults have plenty to motivate them to get sober and stay sober such as their children and grandchildren; they have the want to create a positive lasting legacy for and with their family. Most older adults benefit from a drug abuse treatment program that is specifically designed for older adults but that doesn’t have to be the case. It is true though that older adults do have different needs, different issues, and different ways of recovering than younger individuals but as long as a drug treatment center involves people of all ages most older adults can find someone they are similar in age too and relate.
Drug abuse in older adults is not something that should be overlooked or underestimated. Most of us when we think of drug abuse don’t usually think of our parents or grandparents but they can suffer too and if that is the case they also can benefit from the help provided by a drug abuse treatment center.
If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.