Substance Misuse and Recovery for Older Adults

Substance misuse is often misunderstood and can carry a social stigma. Some professionals as well as laypeople believe that older adults who misuse alcohol or other substances are “too old” to change their ways. The truth is that older adults can benefit from treatment. With the right resources, it’s possible to have a successful recovery and enjoy a healthy, thriving life once again.

September is National Recovery Awareness Month. The purpose of this observance is to educate people of all ages on recovery and treatment options for people who are facing challenges of substance misuse and dependence. This topic is important for people of all ages since alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, and other substance misuse affect people in all demographics.

Substance Abuse and COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused unique challenges for people already struggling with addiction issues, as well as for people who are turning to alcohol, opiates, and other substances to “self medicate” for mental health concerns. Those with pre-existing health concerns are at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications. People who misuse substances can have a higher risk of infection due to a weakened immune system.

Smoking affects the lungs, opioids can impact heart health, and other addictive substances take a dramatic toll on a person’s overall health. Substance misuse can co-exist with homelessness, lack of access to healthcare, and minimal social supports, all adding to the risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.

Another concern is the loneliness and isolation this pandemic is causing among older adults. Since people over the age of 65 are in a high-risk category, people are self-isolating at home. The loneliness can lead to increased substance misuse, especially when an individual is experiencing chronic pain, grief, despair, clinical depression or anxiety, and/or has a history of trauma.

There is Hope: Recovering from Substance Abuse

Professionals trained in substance misuse recovery are utilizing new methods to help Baby Boomers, for example, to benefit from treatment. In addition to medical interventions like “detox,” Interactive therapies like peer support groups, and therapies that address physical and spiritual wellness are being utilized for Boomers.

If you or an older loved one needs assistance with recovery, know that help is available. A variety of resources are available online and here in San Diego, including inpatient and outpatient options. Contact the aging experts at Windward Life Care for more information.