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How Seniors Can Find Help With Addiction?

  • By John Burke

  • March 14, 2024

As we age, life comes with its fair share of challenges. Chronic pain, declining health, and loss of loved ones are just some of the challenges seniors face, causing them to turn to alcohol and other substances to cope with the emotional and physical pain.

Sadly, addiction among seniors is a truth that’s often concealed, shrouded in shame and misunderstanding. Yet, nearly 1 million Americans aged 65 and older have a substance abuse disorder (SUD).

However, addiction isn’t a moral failing — it’s a disease. And just like any other disease, recovery is possible regardless of age. In this post, we’ll explore the signs of addiction in seniors, how they can find treatment options, and more.

Whether you’re a senior looking to overcome addiction or a concerned family member looking to help a loved one looking to help a loved one overcome addiction, read on to discover how you can take action.

Substance Abuse Among Seniors

Substance Abuse Among Seniors

Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age. While often associated with younger adults, seniors also grapple with substance abuse issues. Here are some of the common substances seniors abuse:


Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among senior citizens, making alcohol rehab for seniors critical. According to a study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 11% of American seniors engage in binge drinking. This translates to consuming at least four drinks every two hours for women and five drinks within the same timeframe for men.

Excessive alcohol consumption can be especially dire for seniors as many take prescription medications that can interact badly with alcohol. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can exacerbate chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Worse, it can weaken the body’s ability to fend off infections, making seniors more susceptible to illnesses.

Prescription Medication

Many older adults take medication to manage various health conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, dementia, diabetes, and more. As a result, seniors are more susceptible to abusing prescription drugs compared to younger adults.

The most common prescription drugs senior adults are prone to abusing include:

Opioids: These drugs relieve pain. Examples include oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). Seniors can become addicted to opioids if they overdose on them or take them for a long period.

Benzodiazepines: These drugs treat anxiety and insomnia. Examples include alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and clorazepate (Tranxene). Seniors can become addicted to benzodiazepines if they take them for a long period.

Abusing prescription drugs can result in serious issues. For example, according to a 2019 study including patients over 50, more than 50% of individuals who misused opioids or benzodiazepines experienced suicidal thoughts.

Signs of Substance Use Disorder in Seniors

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction isn’t easy, but when it comes to seniors, the signs might not always be obvious, making early intervention even more crucial. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping)
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in behavior and mood
  • Missing or overdosing on medication
  • Getting prescriptions from multiple doctors
  • Early medication refill requests
  • Unexplained financial difficulties
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Isolation

While these signs could be due to other issues like an underlying medical condition, it’s best to consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you notice one or several of them, as early intervention can play a pivotal role in successful recovery.

Finding Addiction Treatment Options for Seniors

Finding Treatment Options for Seniors

When it comes to addiction treatment for seniors, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. There are various options tailored to the specific needs of seniors. These options include:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient or residential programs offer round-the-clock care and supervision in a structured environment, making them ideal for seniors who require intensive support, constant monitoring, or medical detoxification.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a rehab center that offers premium care, you may want to explore luxury rehab in Hawaii. Unlike conventional rehab centers, luxury rehabilitation centers offer many of the services and amenities one can expect to find in a four or five-star hotel.

Some amenities provided in luxury rehab centers for seniors include gyms, massage therapy, sauna treatment, private rooms, and more.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs allow seniors to continue residing at home while attending treatment sessions, making them suitable for individuals with strong support networks and mild to moderate addiction.

There are primarily two types of outpatient treatment programs for seniors. These include:

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs): PHPs are highly structured treatment programs that are almost similar to inpatient treatment programs. They typically run for several hours a day, daily, and consist of activities like individual therapy, group therapy, and alternative therapy.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPS): IOPs allow patients to carry on with their daily activities while still attending addiction treatment. The programs include activities like individual, group, or alternative therapy about three to five days a week.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be beneficial, particularly for seniors battling with opioid addiction. MAT combines medications like methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine with therapy, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms while stabilizing patients.

When choosing between these addiction treatment options, look for rehab centers for seniors with experience helping seniors overcome addiction, as they are better suited to address senior’s unique needs and challenges compared to rehab centers open to all age groups.

Additionally, consider factors like program structure, treatment philosophy, and cost before settling for a senior rehab center.

Resources for Treatment and Support

Finding suitable senior rehab centers can feel daunting, but numerous rehabilitation support services are available to guide you. Some helpful resources include:

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides a wealth of resources on addiction and treatment options, including specific resources for seniors.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) provides numerous resources for people battling with addiction, including an online test that can help individuals determine if they’re addicted.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) Administration Helpline

This anonymous, round-the-clock service offers information and referrals to treatment facilities across the United States, including those specializing in seniors. Visit their site or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find a suitable senior rehab center near you.

Tips for Overcoming Addiction for Seniors

Tips for Overcoming Addiction for Seniors

While the journey to recovery is unique for everyone, here are some helpful tips that can help seniors overcome specific challenges:

Identify Your Triggers

What situations, emotions, or people trigger your cravings? Self-awareness of these triggers allows you to develop strategies to avoid them or manage them effectively.

Find Healthy Distractions

Look for healthy activities you can turn to when a craving strikes, like reading a book, going for a walk, or calling a friend.

Avoid High-Risk Situations

If certain environments like nightclubs or parties are likely to trigger cravings, avoid them or limit your time there.

Learn to Say No

Assertively and politely decline offers of substances you want to stop using. For instance, if you’re offered alcohol at a party, you could say, ”No, thanks. I’m in alcohol recovery right now.” Most reasonable people will respect your decision and appreciate your frankness.

Join a Support Group 

Connecting with others facing similar challenges can provide invaluable emotional support, advice, and encouragement on the journey to recovery. For instance, attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings can be an excellent way to overcome alcohol addiction.

Build a Support Network

Having a support network is vital for long-term recovery. Close friends and family can offer encouragement and accountability, promoting successful recovery.

Where to Find a Safe Senior Rehab Facility Near Me

The journey to recovery may seem insurmountable, but recovery is possible at any age. By understanding the unique experiences of seniors struggling with addiction, recognizing the signs, and exploring available treatment options, you can empower yourself or your loved one to overcome addiction.

At Honu House, we offer specialized treatment programs tailored to address the specific needs and concerns of seniors. Our compassionate and professional team of medical experts and addiction specialists is dedicated to providing holistic care, personalized support, and a haven for recovery.

Contact us today to learn more about our Hawaii treatment center and our addiction treatment options for seniors, and take the first step towards a healthier, happier life for yourself or your loved one.


Is Addiction Different In Seniors Compared to Younger Adults?

Yes, there are some key differences. Many seniors may have unique issues like chronic pain, underlying medical conditions, or social isolation. Additionally, their bodies may metabolize medications differently. Treatment plans for seniors should be tailored to these specific needs.

What Are the Signs of Relapse and What Should I Do if It Happens?

Relapse is a possibility in recovery, and anyone is susceptible to it. Signs can include changes in mood, spending habits, or increased isolation. If you suspect a relapse, offer support without judgment and encourage the person to seek therapy.

What If My Loved One Doesn’t Admit They Have a Problem?

Denial is common among individuals struggling with addiction. You can’t force someone to admit their problem, but you can offer support and express your concerns in a caring, non-judgmental way. Share resources, encourage them to seek therapy, and offer to accompany them to counseling appointments.

Can Medication Help With Senior Addiction?

Medication addiction treatment (MAT) is an effective tool for many seniors grappling with addiction, particularly opioid dependence. MAT combines medications with therapy, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms while stabilizing patients.

Are There Online Resources for Seniors Struggling With Addiction?

Yes, several online platforms like the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offer resources for seniors with addiction.