Addiction crosses all age group; it does not discriminate. Older addicts have similar difficulties as young people with alcohol and other drug addictions, plus other issues unique to their age group, says The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
About 3% of Americans seeking addiction treatment are over 60, but the percentage who have addiction problems is suspected of being higher.
Many addicts suffer from estrangement from family, financial problems, and a host of regrets to people in recovery. But elderly addicts can also go through severe isolation and physical changes, including the advent of chronic pain issues. Often, they have more free time, and unstructured time, which is often a negative.
Older addicts like Baby Boomers are arriving at treatment programs. They are the first generation to be involved in widespread recreational use of drugs but before coming out as an addict and seeking help became fashionable. The National Institute on Drug Abuse expects the percentage of seniors with alcohol and other drug problems will dramatically rise by 2020.
There is a silver lining. Older addicts are often are often more successful in quitting. Many are ready to put down their drinking or drug use. Older treatment clients tend to keep their appointments, even if they're suspicious of the treatment process.
Therapy should be structured around their generational needs:
- Counselors must be respectful of their privacy
- Counselors must have good manners when dealing with older clients
- Sessions should be shorter and held during daylight so seniors don't have to drive at night
A decade ago, three of four older addicts were battling alcohol abuse, but today about half have problems with drugs other than alcohol.