Addiction and Older Individuals

Close-up portrait of a sad elder couple on brown background

We know there are two developmental periods of the person’s life that is at greater risk for addiction. The older individual, age 55+, is at heightened risk for addiction and negative consequences with active addiction. Substance abuse among older adults are often gone under- or misdiagnosed. The healthcare professional is untrained on how to assess, engage and advise an older adult regarding a possible addiction problem. Studies have shown (Han, et al., 2009) that older adults are less likely to seek help and treatment for their addiction. Additionally, most treatment centers are not accessible to older adults and their treatment is focused almost solely on younger adults (ages 20-30).

Older Individuals: Specific Risks and Concerns

The older individual with addiction is in great need for appropriate treatment. The treatment needs to be provided by healthcare providers who understand the addiction, as well as the co-occuring issues with this population. Some of the concerns we have when treating an older individual is:

  • the presence of chronic illness (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, desmentia, arthritis, etc.)
  • risk of falling with limited mobility and when intoxicated or impaired when using a drug or alcohol
  • increased depression and anxiety
  • non-compliance with management of their chronic illnesses
  • psychological despair
  • physicians not aware of the addictive behaviors in older adults
  • family dynamics with an older adult with addictions

It is a challenge for the health systems to integrate the treatment of physical, chronic issues as well as any mental health issues, including substance use disorders.

If you are an older individual, or know an older adult with addiction issues please contact us at Providence Treatment at

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