Not as Prescribed: Recognizing and Facing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Older Adults

NotAsPrescribedBy Harry Haroutunian, MD

Drug misuse and addiction is one of the fastest growing and unrecognized health problems in the United States in older adults, which is defined as age fifty and older. AARP coordinated efforts with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to provide important information about substance misuse and addiction. Knowing the difference between normal signs of aging and misused drugs or addiction may help families identify drug misuse and abuse.

Toxic combinations of prescription drugs, whether under a physician’s or several physicians’ care, can mimic aging or disguise addiction. The magnitude of this problem and the rationale why different age groups use, and some misuse, alcohol and drugs is provided. 

The major factors contributing to the large number of older adults turning to drugs and alcohol use and abuse include the increasing number of folks reaching retirement age, reverting to using drugs due to stressors (boredom, health and financial issues or loneliness), the increase in prescription pain killer use, and societies’ comfortableness using drugs for pain relief.

Haroutunian states, “Older adults who go through addiction treatment have some of the best success rates for staying in long-term recovery.” Are you over 50 and on pain medications? This book is for you. Do you or someone you know take four or more medications? This book is also for you. Is drinking or drug use affecting your relationships? This book is for you too.

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Last Updated on September 6, 2016