Age Specific Treatment Options for Substance Abuse
Substance abuse can push you away from family and friends. It can also affect your ability to perform well, or even attend, work or school. Calls may go unanswered, scheduled classes, meetings and family events may be missed and children or grandchildren may be left without a caregiver that is fully present, both mentally and physically. Even though this may be the case now, it does not have to be this way forever. Help is available to those who want it and reach out for it.
Age specific treatment options for a substance abuse problem are important, especially when it comes to elderly substance abusers. An 18-year old who is addicted to cocaine and a 70-year old with an addiction to prescription medication may not both respond the same way to the same treatment.
There are also several issues specific to older and elderly persons that can make substance abuse treatment more complex.
An older adult may need more medical care during the initial treatment phase than a younger person. Even though a person is older, they will still go through the same initial phases and changes once treatment begins. These changes may be harder on an older body. Frequent medical care and physician supervision may be very important during the initial phase of treatment.
Additionally, elderly substance abusers may have other age-related difficulties that make treating their addiction more difficult. Alzheimer’s and dementia are two brain-related diseases that affect older persons and may also prove to make the treatment of their substance abuse problem more difficult to treat. Even if a person does not suffer from one of these diseases, general mental decline in an elderly person can also make treatment more challenging.
Older people may also have several family members that need to be kept abreast of their progress and even included in the treatment plan. This is especially true if the older adult is in the legal custody or care of a family member. These family members need to be involved from the beginning, helping to create a treatment plan and goals for the patient. They need be allowed to voice their opinion on important decisions before treatment begins, like whether in-patient or out-patient treatment is best and whether a traditional or holistic approach will be used. They will also be able to inform the treatment staff of important information, such as if the patient is on any medications that can interfere with treatment, the past psychiatric history of the patient, how long the patient has been struggling with addiction and recent behaviors that may be concerning. This can alert staff of any suicidal thoughts, depression or other potential road blocks.
Remember, even though elderly substance abusers need age specific treatment for their problem, they can still experience the same negative feelings and situations as younger abusers. This includes isolation, depression, negative feelings about oneself and suicidal thoughts. It is important not to overlook things like thoughts of suicide or think that they cannot happen because of the patient’s age.
Getting help for yourself or a loved one with a substance abuse problem can be a tough step to take, but necessary to get your or your loved one’s life back on track before your family or job begins to suffer. Your or your loved one’s finances and relationships may be okay now, but that can change as the addiction progresses. Whether you or a loved one has a problem with pills, alcohol or illegal street drugs, there is help waiting for you. It may be a difficult step to take, but it can be life changing, too.