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Is Drug Addiction a Problem in Older Adults?

By: Shannon Persad February 18, 2020 no comments

Is Drug Addiction a Problem in Older Adults?

When most think of the drug crisis, most think of young adults, opioids, or marijuana.

Unfortunately, the drug crisis affects all ages, including older adults and the elderly.

It is theorized the common types of substances seniors would be benzodiazepines, besides alcohol.

According to Drugs.com:

“Benzodiazepines (also called “benzos”) are a class of agents that work in the central nervous system and are used for a variety of medical conditions.” They act on specific receptors in the brain, called gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A) receptors. Benzodiazepines attach to these receptors and make the nerves in the brain less sensitive to stimulation, which has a calming effect.”

Senior Population and Benzos

How can benzos poorly affect seniors?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Administration on Aging (AoA):

            “The potential health consequences of psychoactive medication misuse are numerous. Prolonged use of psychoactive medications, especially benzodiazepines, has been associated with depression and cognitive decline. Benzodiazepine use is associated with confusion, falls, and hip fractures in older adults. Use of opioid analgesics can lead to excessive sedation, respiratory depression, and impairment in vision, attention, and coordination as well as falls among older persons. Other negative effects of psychoactive medication misuse and abuse are loss of motivation, memory problems, family or marital discord, new difficulties with activities of daily living, declines in personal grooming and hygiene, and withdrawal from family, friends, and normal social activities.”

SAMSHA and AoA recommend prevention to avoid seniors from becoming addicted to benzos:

“Preventing psychoactive prescription medication misuse and abuse requires a coordinated system of care that integrates medical/physical health, behavioral health, and the aging services networks to fully address this growing problem. Older adults and their caregivers also play important roles in preventing the misuse of, abuse of, and dependence on psychoactive prescription medications.”


Adults from age 55+ tend to be forgotten, but all hope is not lost.

If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, contact ATSI at 1-(855)-498-2121 for a confidential consultation.

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