Everyone can commit substance abuse and develop substance use disorders. While many people associate drug and alcohol addiction with young adults, it’s often the age group of older adults, or seniors, that struggle with substance abuse and addiction issues. As a result, rehab for seniors programs are necessary at addiction treatment centers such as BRC Healthcare.

Prescription Drug Abuse Amongst the Elderly

While many people commit substance abuse intentionally, a large portion of individuals commits substance abuse unintentionally. This is due to them taking their prescription medications for a longer period of time than they were prescribed. This is also due to people taking more of their medications than they were prescribed. 

In fact, prescription drug abuse is one of the top forms of drug abuse. This is especially true when it comes to prescription opioids. The fact that the U.S. is currently in an opioid epidemic just goes to prove how often prescription opioids are abused. 

Older adults are prescribed the most amount of medications from their doctors. In fact, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that individuals that are 65 years old or older consume almost 40% of all prescription medications in the nation. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that older adults abuse prescription drugs at extremely high rates and often develop prescription drug addictions

Seniors are especially more likely to take an increasing number of prescription medications at any given time. This is due to the fact that seniors suffer from much more health issues and chronic pain than younger individuals do. Seniors experience more chronic pain than individuals in any other age group because their bodies are aging. 

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse Amongst Seniors

There are many signs that an older adult may be abusing his or her prescription drugs. Some of the most common signs of prescription drug abuse amongst seniors include:

  • Going to different pharmacies to receive multiple of the same prescriptions 
  • Getting one prescription drug from multiple doctors
  • Taking higher doses of medications than prescribed
  • Disregarding warning labels on prescription medication bottles
  • Taking medications at unusual times
  • Always having an extra supply of prescription pills on hand
  • Recklessly spending money on prescription drugs
  • Always making excuses for why one needs extra medicine
  • Hiding prescription medications from others
  • Exhibiting negative moods and behaviors
  • Often being confused
  • Poor memory
  • Getting defensive and angry when asked about medications

Alcohol Abuse Amongst Seniors

Believe it or not, many seniors also struggle with alcohol abuse. Many people don’t think this because binge drinking is more common amongst younger individuals. Although older adults don’t often binge drink, they do often drink heavily though. 

This causes many seniors to develop alcohol abuse issues. In fact, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), widowers that are 75 years of age and older in America suffer from alcoholism at the highest rates. 

Because alcoholism amongst seniors is so common, the American Geriatrics Society and the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggest that seniors over the age of 65 don’t drink any more than seven glasses of standard alcoholic drinks such as wine or beer in a week. 

Signs of Alcohol Abuse Amongst Seniors

There are several signs of alcohol abuse amongst seniors. Below are some of the more common ones:

  • Poor self-care
  • Shrinking medical appointments
  • Unstable hypertension
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Suddenly re-occurring falls or injuries
  • Frequent emergency room visits
  • Changes in behavior
  • Having issues getting along with family and friends
  • Continuously feeling the need to drink before, during, and after meals
  • Frequent angry outbursts
  • Increased irritability

Other Causes of Drug Abuse Amongst Seniors

Because older adults are often not that mobile and are usually retired, they often lead lives of isolation. Many older adults also struggle with drug or alcohol abuse and mental health issues. 

Furthermore, older adults are often in a place in their lives where many of their friends are starting to pass away. All of these factors together create a recipe for the development of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety on top of already existing drug and alcohol abuse issues. 

Older adults that suffer from co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders should receive dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment programs are rehab programs that treat co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders at the same time.

Experiencing mental illnesses may cause some elderly people to abuse any drug and alcohol to cope. Some elderly individuals may also abuse any drug and alcohol to cope with the physical pain that they are suffering from due to aging. Elderly people that suffer from both physical pain and mental illnesses should seek out medical and mental treatment programs.

Elderly people are in their last stages of life. Thus, many people, including physicians, don’t feel comfortable telling them that they can’t consume as much drugs and alcohol as they want. As a result, many older adults are able to easily fall into the depths of substance abuse and addiction. This will eventually cause elderly people to need to attend rehab for seniors. 

Problems That Substance Abuse Causes Elderly People

Unfortunately, though, drugs or alcohol abuse can cause unique problems for elderly people. This is because people exhibit physiological changes in their brains and bodies as they age. Such changes make older adults more susceptible to the negative effects of drug and alcohol use. 

For example, one of the signs of aging is the slowing down of one’s metabolism. As people age, they also are more likely to suffer from medical complications. Such medical complications interfere with the way that the bodies of older adults break down any drug and alcohol. 

Furthermore, the bones and muscles of elderly people are not as strong. This makes elderly people more susceptible to falling and seriously injuring themselves when committing substance abuse. 

Older adults that commit substance abuse are also at a greater risk of becoming delirious and having memory loss. Many of the medications that elderly people are prescribed even often cause them to experience mind-altering effects. 

Over time, continued use of certain medications and substances causes chemical changes in the brains of older adults that make them start to crave substances. The fact that the tolerance levels for substances are often lowered in older adults only increases the chances that they will experience such negative side effects.

Elderly people that commit substance abuse are at a greater risk of developing co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. Older adults that commit substance abuse are also more likely to suffer from suicidal tendencies. 

Forms of Substance Abuse Treatment Offered at Rehab for Seniors Programs

It’s necessary that rehab for seniors programs are available at rehab facilities. This is because of the high rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders amongst seniors.  

Within rehab for seniors treatment programs are various forms of substance abuse treatment. The primary forms of addiction treatment that are typically offered at rehab for seniors treatment programs at rehab facilities are described below.


People usually detox at detox facilities prior to rehab. Still, detox is still a staple part of the drug rehabilitation process for seniors. This is especially true if the rehab facility that a person is attending rehab for seniors at offers detox services. 

During detox, people must rid their bodies of toxic substances. This is done by tapering one’s substance use until there are no more substances in a person’s bodily system. 

It’s important that individuals that detox from substances attend medical detox. This is because medical detox programs allow individuals to take prescription medications to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms. 

Medical detox programs are supervised by doctors and medical staff 24/7. This is to ensure that individuals safely detox and don’t develop any sort of addiction to their prescription withdrawal medications. This is just another vital benefit of attending a medical detox program. 

Inpatient Addiction Treatment 

Rehab for seniors usually comes in either an inpatient or outpatient program format. Inpatient addiction treatment at rehab for seniors programs requires their patients to live in the addiction treatment centers that they’re receiving care at until they complete rehab. This is because inpatient addiction treatment programs are for individuals that suffer from severe substance addictions and thus, need 24/7 care and monitoring. 

There are two main forms of inpatient addiction treatment. One is standard inpatient treatment and the other is residential inpatient treatment

Standard inpatient treatment is a bit more structured than residential treatment. As a result, residential treatment programs allow their patients to have more free time to themselves. Residential treatment programs also allow their patients to have more time to participate in holistic forms of rehab. 

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Outpatient addiction treatment programs allow their patients to live in the comfort of their own homes during the period of time that they’re receiving care. They also allow their patients to tend to their normal life responsibilities. Each form of an outpatient treatment program even allows its patients to live their lives in the real world in between treatment sessions. 

There are three main forms of outpatient addiction treatment. These three forms include partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment, intensive outpatient program (IOP) treatment, and standard outpatient program (OP) treatment. 

PHPs are outpatient treatment programs that require their patients to attend rehab for approximately five to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week. IOPs are outpatient treatment programs that require their patients to attend rehab for approximately:

  • Three to four hours a day
  • A few days or so a week

OPs require their patients to attend rehab for approximately a couple of hours a day, once or twice a week. Thus, a PHP is the most intense form of an outpatient treatment program, followed by an IOP, and then an OP. 

PHPs at rehab for seniors programs are for older adults that suffer from moderate to severe level addictions. Partial hospitalization programs are a great alternative to inpatient treatment programs for individuals that can’t afford to take time off from their lives to spend 24/7 living in rehab facilities while receiving care. 

IOPs at rehab for seniors programs are for older adults that suffer from moderate-level addictions. OPs at rehab for seniors programs are for elderly people that suffer from mild level addictions. 

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is a special treatment program that individuals enter after achieving recovery to gain extra tips and tools that will help them avoid relapsing. Seniors that attend rehab for addiction treatment would benefit from relapse prevention programs.

Rehab for Seniors At BRC Healthcare

BRC Healthcare is a great rehab center to receive addiction treatment as a senior citizen. This is because we here at BRC Healthcare offer all forms of inpatient and outpatient treatment for individualized rehab for seniors programs. 

Our rehab for seniors programs here at BRC Healthcare is also specialized by substance. Thus, whether a senior citizen is suffering from addiction to prescription drugs, alcohol, or some other substance, he or she can receive treatment for his or her addiction at our rehab facility. 

To learn more about BRC Healthcare and why we are the ideal rehab facility for seniors to receive addiction treatment at, contact us today.