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Rates of Substance Abuse Among Elderly Increase

Susbtance Abuse in Middle Aged Americans - Bergand Group

Rates of substance abuse among elderly Americans have been increasing, a fact that could put a burden on the mental health care system as the population of adults aged 65 and older is expected to increase significantly in the next two decades.

Recent research suggests that not only is substance abuse among elderly Americans increasing, but they are actually “far more likely to use illicit drugs than previous generations.” According to the New York Times, “a 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3 percent in 2011 from 2.7 percent in 2002.” The Times continues:

To get a sense of the magnitude of this looming mental health crisis, consider that in 2010 the best estimates are the six to eight million older Americans – about 14 percent to 20 percent of the overall elderly population – had one or more substance abuse or mental disorders. The number of adults aged 65 and old is projected to increase to 73 million from 40 million between 2010 and 2030, and the numbers of those needing treatment stands to overwhelm the country’s mental health care system.

The reasons for substance abuse among the elderly are complex, and different from those of younger generations. Having grown up during the 60’s and 70’s when drug use and experimentation were common, this generation may be more predisposed to use of substances. However as the body ages it becomes less able to cope with these substances, magnifying the effects of the problems they create. Health problems and other difficulties associated with aging such as the loss of loved ones may also cause some to turn to substances as a coping mechanism. Abuse of prescription medications for pain, anxiety, and insomnia is also common.

As this potential crisis comes to a head, efforts to reduce substance abuse among Americans aged 65 and older need to be made. A greater emphasis on mental health services needs to be made as a society. Increased attention and vigilance from doctors and family members of elderly persons can help spot substance abuse before it becomes a serious problem.


About The Bergand Group

The Bergand Group is an addiction treatment center located in Baltimore, MD. Our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol treatment and drug treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. To speak with someone at our office, please call us at 410-853-7691. You can also contact us via email, and follow us on FacebookGoogle+Twitter and LinkedIn.


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