Addiction in Seniors: Identifying Signs and Providing Support

Addiction in seniors is a growing concern, often overlooked and underreported; reach out to We Level Up California today to get the support and resources you or your loved one needs to lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Seniors face special challenges, including increased addiction risks. Addiction in seniors is real, despite common misconceptions. It has been a growing concern in the past decade. Signs of addiction in seniors must be identified in order to provide appropriate intervention and support. Recognizing the warning signs early can help seniors overcome addiction and improve their lifestyle. We at We Level Up California will do our best to present senior addiction symptoms and available treatment options.

Recognizing the Signs of Addiction in Seniors

Signs of addiction in seniors can occur in many forms, including:

  • Physical signs: Unexplained bruises, sudden weight loss, and neglect of personal hygiene may be signs of substance abuse affecting seniors.
  • Behavioral signs: Increased isolation, loss of interest in hobbies, and erratic behavior might indicate an addiction struggle.
  • Emotional signs: Seniors who have substance abuse issues might show mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
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These signs may be mistaken for aging rather than addiction because of a few factors. For one thing, substance abuse is usually associated with younger people, so addiction is overlooked in older adults. Symptoms of addiction may also be mistaken for normal age-related changes like mood swings or behavior. In addition, seniors are less likely to seek help/disclose substance abuse issues, making early detection of addiction difficult.

Common Addictions Among Seniors

Addiction in seniors often involves prescription drug misuse—opioids and benzodiazepines. These medications are often used to manage anxiety or pain and can cause dependence and addiction if used incorrectly, for example, through prolonged use or improper dosage. Preventing prescription medication misuse in seniors requires tailored interventions like prescription drug detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and promote recovery.

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Signs of addiction in seniors may be mistaken for aging

Additionally, alcohol abuse is a prevalent issue among older adults, with several factors contributing to its increase in older age. Retirement, loss of social connections, and the onset of age-related health issues may lead some seniors to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. However, alcohol abuse can worsen existing health conditions and pose significant risks to overall well-being. Seeking support through alcohol detox in California can provide seniors with the necessary resources and guidance to overcome alcohol addiction and regain control of their lives.

Another common senior addiction type is the one to illicit drugs. Popular illicit drugs amongst older adults are marijuana and cocaine. Heroin, hallucinogens, ketamine, and meth are also widely used. Marijuana is used to ease discomfort from aging. Also, some elderly people have lower energy and endurance, so they turn to cocaine.

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How Many Senior Citizens Are Addicted to Drugs?

Results from the 2018 National Study on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration show how many seniors are addicts. They indicate that almost 1 million adults age 65 and over (2% of all seniors) had a Substance Use disorder within the previous year. For people over 65 years old, alcohol was the most prevalent substance of abuse reported. Other results for those over 65 are:

  • In the previous month, 10.7% of seniors reported excessive drinking.
  • In the previous month, 2.5% of seniors reported excessive alcohol usage.
  • One in six elderly people said they suffered from an alcohol addiction.
  • 1.3% of elderly citizens said they had abused opioids in the previous 12 months.
  • In the previous year, 0.5% of seniors reported abusing tranquilizers.
  • 0.4% reported abusing benzodiazepines in the previous 12 months.
  • In the previous year, 0.2% of seniors reported abusing sedatives.

Do Drugs and Alcohol Have Different Effects on Seniors?

Aging might produce social and physical changes that increase the vulnerability to substance misuse. The effects of drugs and alcohol on the aging brain are not very well known. However, older adults usually process substances more slowly, and their brains may be more sensitive to drugs. This could make them more vulnerable to the adverse consequences of substance use as they age.

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Aging might also produce social and physical changes that increase the vulnerability to substance misuse

Older adults might have mood disorders, lung and cardiac problems, or memory problems. Drugs may worsen these conditions. Some drugs also cause accidents—falls and motor vehicle crashes—due to impaired judgment, coordination, or reaction time. Such injuries may be more harmful to health than in young adults and could require a longer healing time.

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What If I Am Struggling—Where to Start?

Fighting addiction as an aging adult is a lonely journey. Even a less harmful addiction like nicotine addiction could be challenging to overcome on your own. As cliché as it may sound, the very first step toward seeking help is acknowledging that you are struggling. It is not really an easy thing to admit and requires a lot of mental strength. Some people tell loved ones first or call a professional immediately. It is an individual decision you are making.

If it helps you to speak with your kids or grandkids first, take a seat and tell them you need treatment. Prepare yourself because some people won’t react positively. Are you cut off from friends and family? Ask a member of a neighborhood church or perhaps a certified mental health worker about your wish to battle the addiction. Whatever you decide, bear in mind that there are plenty of healing options for you to discover! Healing is possible.

Treatment Options for Senior Addiction

Inpatient care offers many benefits when treating addiction in seniors. Specialized programs at facilities like We Level Up California address the physical, emotional, and social aspects of addiction in seniors. Our California inpatient drug rehab offers a structured environment where seniors can receive quality care under the direct supervision of medical professionals. Our programs incorporate individual counseling, holistic therapies, and group therapy to meet the needs of senior citizens and promote long-term recovery.

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Inpatient drug rehab in California helps seniors overcome addiction and rebuild their lives

Our mission is to help seniors overcome addiction and rebuild their lives. Through individualized treatment plans and a supportive community, we address the underlying causes of addiction and create healthier coping strategies for the future. Our inpatient drug rehab facilities in California focus on holistic healing and individual care for seniors to achieve sobriety and a better quality of life.

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Insurance and Coverage for Senior Addiction Treatment

Insurance coverage may help fund addiction treatment and make quality care more accessible. Depending on your coverage plan, you may get inpatient and outpatient treatment, detoxification, and therapy. At We Level Up CA, we work with many major insurance providers. So, for instance, through BCBS drug rehab insurance, you may lessen the financial burden of addiction treatment so you can concentrate on recovery without worrying about huge costs. Reach out to us, and we will help you understand your coverage and discuss the best course of action for you.

How to Support Seniors Through Recovery

Family support is critical in getting seniors to seek treatment and support them through recovery. Family members can be an emotional support, a practical helper, and a reassuring presence to addicted seniors. Family involvement may also help seniors feel less alone and more motivated to stop using substances, a crucial component of recovery.

These are the ways that family members can make the process easier and less challenging:

  • Emotional Support: Offering unconditional love, understanding, and encouragement. Family members can show seniors they are loved and accepted—something they need to build confidence and self-esteem as they recover.
  • Active Participation: Attending therapy sessions, educational programs, and support groups together. Such involvement strengthens family bonds and shows concern for the senior’s recovery.
  • Creating a Supportive Environment: Establishing a stable and structured home environment minimizes triggers and stressors that may lead to relapse.
  • Practical Assistance: Assisting with transportation, managing medications, and providing supervision.
a young man and a woman helping an old man to stand up
Family members can be an emotional support, a practical helper, and a reassuring presence to addicted seniors

In addition to family support, seniors may need professional help, such as counseling or medical care. Professional counselors can offer seniors individual therapy to address underlying issues that cause addiction and teach coping skills to manage cravings and stimuli. Medical professionals can also provide medication-assisted therapy, detoxification, and ongoing medical care for seniors through the recovery process. Combining family support with professional help provides comprehensive care and support toward sobriety.

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Seniors and Addiction: Overcoming Challenges with We Level Up California

Addiction in seniors is important to recognize. Identifying those signs early and taking action can help seniors struggling with addiction lead a more fulfilling life. We Level Up California is dedicated to helping as many people as possible get started on the road to recovery. The right support system can help seniors battle addiction and take back control of their lives. We want to provide it to them. Let’s keep raising awareness, showing compassion, and helping seniors live more fulfilled lives without addiction!

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“Section 1 PE Tables – Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, SAMHSA, CBHSQ.”,

“2018 NSDUH Annual National Report | CBHSQ.”, 20 Aug. 2019,

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Substance Use in Older Adults DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 July 2020,

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