The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse will be observing National Addictions Awareness Week from November 17 to 21 this year. Although substance abuse and addictions may be commonly associated with youth (this years theme is Youth Substance Abuse Prevention), many older adults also struggle with addiction.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada Health care professionals may experience difficulty identifying older adults with alcohol and drug abuse problems because ‘indicators such as memory problems, confusion, lack of self-care, depression, sleep problems and falls may be incorrectly attributed to the effects of aging’.
According to the Canadian Research Network for Care in the Community older adults who experience depression are three to four more times likely to develop alcohol problems. Risk factors include retirement, anxiety, loss of life partner and isolation.
Older adults process alcohol slower than younger individuals and therefore feel the effects of alcohol more. The effects of drug and alcohol abuse are more harmful to older adults than younger individuals. Substance abuse has the potential to increase an older adults risk of injury and illness.
Older adults who suffer from addictions may not reach out for help because of feelings of shame and privacy issues. Given the continuing growth of the older adult demographic, addictions among Canadians age 65+ have the potential to become a growing concern. Addiction is a treatable medical problem. If you suspect an older adult in your life is struggling with addiction contact your family doctor for resources and support.