Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not just an affliction of the young. More than 1 million adults ages 65 and older in this country have a substance use disorder, according to 2017 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This number is projected to rise, with a vast majority of affected seniors never seeking treatment in what has been aptly termed “a growing, but mostly silent, epidemic” in a 2016 study from BMC Health Services Research. Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab?
Sadly, what many older people with addiction don’t know is that rehab is both a viable and promising option for kicking a drug or alcohol problem. Seniority should never be an obstacle to getting effective treatment for an addiction.
First, consider these three compelling reasons to go to rehab for a drug or alcohol problem.
A 2013 Hazelden reportsheds light on why this is so. Recovery rates in seniors are higher than those in younger people because “older adults have more positive experiences to draw upon and tend to be more disciplined about recovery.”
Another key predictor of success in recovery is a client’s adherence to a plan of drug or alcohol treatment. When researchers in a 2002 studycompared older clients’ adherence to alcohol treatment with younger clients’ adherence to alcohol treatment, they found the older clients were more likely to comply with their plan of treatment. They were more faithful about attending therapy sessions and taking prescribed medications. As a result, the older adults’ rates of relapse were lower than those among younger adults.
There are a number of reasons that a drug or alcohol problem that you may have successfully managed earlier in life is increasingly more dangerous to your health as you age. These include:
Contrary to the ageist mindset that says you’re too old to benefit from rehab, seniority is a persuasive reason to put quality-of-life concerns first. The golden years are an opportunity to make the most of the time you have left. Researchshows that people who attend inpatient rehab achieve a significant improvement in their quality of life.
For older people, moreover, positive and supportive relationships— not finances— are reportedly a more important quality-of-life measure. Strikingly, there is an even greater body of research that describes how treatment for addiction can improve close relationships with family and friends.
Seniors who pursue treatment for an addiction have a number of rehab programs to choose from. Some cater exclusively to seniors, such as a nursing home that integrates addiction treatment into post-hospital rehab.
But don’t rule out a mixed-age rehab program either. Findings from the 2002 study cited above suggested that individualized, age-appropriate psychotherapies are more important to a successful recovery than a seniors-only treatment setting.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a rehab program:
No older adult should forego treatment because of concerns about their age. If you’re young enough to drink or use drugs, you’re young enough for rehab. Period.
By Anna Ciulla
Anna Ciulla is the Vice President of Clinical and Medical Services at Beach House Center for Recovery, where she oversees the supervision and delivery of client care. Anna has an extensive background in psychotherapy and clinical management and is often invited to speak and write for various audiences on issues related to addiction. She writes on a variety of addiction and recovery-related topics, including the benefits of seeking treatment no matter your age or place in life.
Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab? Am I Too Old for Drug or Alcohol Rehab?
As a Senior.com Director of Marketing, Kimberly Johnson is passionate about providing Seniors with the resources and products to live well. Kimberly is a seasoned caregiver to her family and breast cancer survivor. Her father battled ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, for 13 months before passing. Today Kimberly lives in Southern California near her 102 year old grandmother, widowed mother, a mentally disabled sister and second sister who is also a breast cancer survivor. She is happily married to her husband of 22 years and they have 3 children.View All Articles