Myths About Older Adults and Substance Abuse

July 30, 2014
Addiction is rampant throughout the state of Maine. However, it is not confined to one age group, unlike other states battling addiction, the Bangor Daily News Opinion column stated. Addiction affects more than 80,000 people throughout Maine. Yet despite the epidemic, people seem to overlook older adults’ participation in it.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 2011 that the percentage of adults aged 50 to 59 who used or abused illicit drugs doubled since 2010. In 2010, the NIDA reported 2.7 percent of the age group used drugs. In 2011, 6.2 percent did. That number is only expected to increase as baby boomers ease into a generation of older adults.

[Tweet “NIDA reported in ’11 that the % of adults 50-59 who used or abused illicit drugs doubled since 2010.”]

In Maine, substance abuse by older adults increased 25 percent from 2000 to 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services stated. Baby boomers are more tolerant of drug and alcohol use and find the behavior acceptable. Drug use by older adults often goes unreported, mainly due to judgment and assumptions about certain age groups.

Some may believe that older adults do not need to be treated for addiction because they are not as active. However, the age of retirement has been pushed back and more older adults are seeking out outside activities like going back to school. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the expected workforce rate through 2022 is projected to rise by 29 percent more than workforce rates in 2012.

Many also believe that older adults abuse alcohol as part of their golden years. That is not the case. Often, older adults abuse alcohol and drugs because of loneliness or anxiety. Substance abuse only limits seniors’ independence and forces their reliance on family.

Seniors with substance abuse and addiction should seek proper treatment. Usually, older adults can reclaim their independence and restore feelings of happiness if they find the right program for them.

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