Addiction Among the Retired

By Scott Trout, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient of Excellence

A New and Alarming Trend

In recent years, the number of older adults entering treatment for alcohol and drug addiction has been on an alarming upward trend. A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that drug abuse (including prescription drugs) among adults aged 50 to 59 jumped from 2.7% in 2002 to 5.8% in 2010. Among those 55 to 59, the rate rose from 1.9 to 4.1%.

An additional factor in this meteoric rise in addiction rates is the aging of the baby boomer generation. Another report from SAMHSA shows that by the year 2020, the rate of addiction in the baby boomer generation is going to require roughly double the current availability of treatment services. According to the same report, an estimated 4.3 million adults aged 50 or older used an illicit drug in the past year and, among those 65 or older, nonmedical use of prescription drugs and alcohol abuse were the most common forms of abuse.

Why are we seeing this trend?

Surveys conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) find that older adults are under more stress than ever before, especially among those 50 and older who care for both aging parents and adult children. Also, those who have been diagnosed with ailments such as obesity, depression or anxiety are at a much higher risk of developing bad habits leading to dependency.  

Other major factors include isolation, loneliness and – in particular – boredom. A recent study by the University of California, San Francisco found that older adults’ quality of health decreases dramatically in those who feel bored or lonely. And those who feel isolated also have a harder time bathing, dressing, eating and just getting around compared to those who feel connected to others.

In today’s eldercare, alcohol and drug abuse is a somewhat hidden problem, as many caregivers and medical professionals fail to recognize the symptoms. Memory problems, confusion, dizziness, an unsteady gate, tremors and other symptoms of alcohol or drug abuse are frequently misdiagnosed as signs of dementia or other age-related issues. As a result, many of the older adults who need help with substance abuse do not receive the advice and treatment they need.

One of the major issues facing older adults with drug and/or alcohol addiction is the litany of health issues that can complicate the abuse and make intervention more difficult. This can include diabetes, high blood pressure, psychological problems, reduced organ function and a host of other factors. The problem is that when you combine these health conditions with an active addiction, it makes treating that individual a complicated and risky venture. Depending on the level of physical dependence, some addiction facilities won’t even accept older adults due to the complexities involved in detox and treatment.

The Enterhealth Tailored Approach

Enterhealth is well-suited to help older adults get the treatment they need. As older adults have such unique and challenging issues in addition to their addiction, treatment at Enterhealth Ranch always begins with a series of comprehensive medical and psychological assessments.

These assessments include personality and neurocognitive testing, a psychiatric diagnostic evaluation, an addiction severity assessment and an addiction-related quality-of-life assessment – all designed to determine the most important areas of clinical concern for each patient. This in-depth look allows our board-certified physicians, psychiatrists and therapists to develop a highly personalized medical treatment plan.

At Enterhealth, every drug and alcohol detox is closely supervised by our addiction-trained medical experts, and withdrawal symptoms are carefully managed by staff who are well-equipped to handle the complicated medical issues presented by the older population. Using the latest evidence-based medical protocols, effective anti-addiction medication therapy and a 24-hour on-site medical staff, our detox services are provided in a safe and private environment.

Of course, alcohol or drug detox alone is not addiction treatment. Rather, it is a technique used to get the substance safely out of a patient’s body so that proper addiction treatment may begin. After withdrawal stabilization, your loved one will be treated according to his or her personalized treatment plan. Recovery is a lifelong process – not a short-term cure – and should include education about the disease and development of coping skills to handle life’s challenges.

Addressing Underlying Issues and Medical Concerns

Every instance of addiction affects the body differently, and each drug addict or alcoholic has a unique combination of personal history, co-occurring psychological or medical conditions and external or social factors that contribute to the substance abuse. The unique treatment approach at Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence is tailored to address each patient’s specific addiction level, abuse patterns and co-occurring issues.

Because our assessment is able to uncover any co-occurring conditions, Enterhealth is able to treat all issues simultaneously, leading to improved patient outcomes. In addition, addiction itself often creates physical and psychological ailments, making it necessary to differentiate between issues that are substance-induced and those that are pre-existing, in order to treat them separately and safely.

Appropriate family involvement is also a critical component of long-term addiction rehabilitation. As part of the recovery process at Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence, we offer individualized family therapy sessions, as well as educational support for families in group settings. By re-learning healthy coping and communication skill, patients and family members are able to rebuild and establish healthy relationships.

To learn more about the Enterhealth and the latest in evidence-based addiction treatment, please visit enterhealth.com, or call 855-393-8656.

About the Author: Scott Trout- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer: Scott Trout oversees the day-to-day operations for both Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence. After joining the company in 2009 as director of fitness and wellness, he moved into several operational roles, as well as an administrator. In those roles, Mr. Trout gained first-hand experience in many of the facets of the Enterhealth program such as fitness, nutrition and wellness, stress management, facilities and transportation. Mr. Trout received his master’s degree in physical therapy from The University of Texas – Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University.