By the Year 2020, There Will be 5.7 Million Elderly Abusers of Illicit Substances

According to an NBC news article, a nursing home in the Bronx is preparing for a five-fold increase in elderly (over 50) drug abusers referred to nursing homes following discharges from hospitals for medical procedures. The recent data indicate that by the year 2020, there will be 5.7 million elderly abusers of illicit substances. 

While many of the people seeking treatment are early-onset abusers (those who started using in their teens and twenties and continue to use) others are late-onset abusers who, for a variety of reasons, are new to substance abuse.

The triggers for late-onset abusers are many and include death of a spouse, retirement, divorce, isolation, distance from family, and  chronic pain. The signs that an older person maybe abusing substances include behaviors that are also found in depression and early onset dementia, and for that reason, are often missed by primary care provider

  • Changes in sleeping patterns – including sleeping too much or inability to sleep
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Inability to concentrate
  • General loss of interest in life and activities that used to bring enjoyment
  • Increased isolation from family and friends
  • Has bottles of tranquilizers on hand and often takes the medication at the least sign of any disturbance

Data on substance abuse in this population are limited, but are becoming increasingly available. Stay tuned for more.....