Specific Concerns for Elderly at Risk for Substance Abuse
An alcoholic beverage at the age of 70 affects the body much differently than it does at 20. As metabolism slows the body holds alcohol longer and becomes more sensitive to it. Add this to the fact that older Americans take more prescription drugs to help ease the physical and mental ailments that start cascading as the body ages and they may not realize the dangers they’re facing.
Because of their more private life after retirement friends may not see warning signs in the person who is falling into substance abuse. An older person need only have one alcoholic drink to put themselves at risk for an adverse reaction like falls that might only bruise a young person but may break brittle bones that take much longer to heal in an older person.
Another concern is that many people may mistake substance abuse for old age. People may expect them to become disoriented, confused and forgetful, walk off balance, stumble or just be “out of it.”
Some drugs are known to cause memory problems that people may just assume are Alzheimer’s symptoms. When a person can’t remember what day it is or becomes easily disoriented or confused, people may simply attribute it to “old age.”
These symptoms could be pointing to a larger problem of a senior not taking their medication on the recommended schedule, taking too much of their medication or mixing it with alcohol. A nightly glass of scotch might be a hard habit to break for some that have had it for years. If the prescriptions keep increasing but the alcohol intake stays the same, the senior may suffer symptoms of substance abuse.
Warning signs include:
- Lack of concentration
- Memory loss
- Dizziness and headaches
- Poor hygiene and nutrition.
If family and friends are aware of a senior’s medications and their alcohol use they can better keep a watchful eye on their loved one. Seniors can also take a quiz constructed by the Regents of the University of Michigan to help them assess their drinking patterns and see if they are at risk of substance abuse.