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Statistically, one out of five seniors in North American are addicted to prescription medications and/or alcohol -- both perfectly legal, but no less devastating to older people and their families. Substance abuse by seniors can lead to depression, personality changes, memory loss, malnutrition, falls, several forms of cancer, heart disease, and premature death. Seniors may be especially prone to become addicted to alcohol or prescription drugs if they suffer from depression, loneliness, boredom, stress, or chronic pain.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that women are more likely than men to become alcoholics as seniors, and are also more apt to abuse prescription drugs, especially if they have experienced the stress of a late-life divorce, widowhood, or poor health (because quite often the drugs of abuse are those prescribed to relieve suffering from stress and pain).
Changes in the body make seniors more sensitive to alcohol, and it may take relatively few drinks to cause intoxication or feed an addiction; it is recommended that people over 65 limit themselves to one drink per day -- which, of course, alcoholics find difficult to do.
SOME WARNING SIGNS
- Complaints of anxiety, depression, disorientation, apathy, panic attacks, mood swings, changes of appetite, sleep problems, paranoia, hallucinations, and tremors.
- Conflicts at work, at volunteer positions, or with family members are also common.
- Unexplained memory loss.
- anyone who plans the day around drinking or goes from doctor to doctor seeking prescriptions is raising a red flag.
This report is brand new! Older Adults and Substance Abuse
The Prevention of Substance Abuse and Misuse Among the Elderly: Review of the Literature and Strategies for Prevention
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