DEA Tip of the Week: What to do if you suspect a senior citizen is struggling with drug abuse

El Paso News

For help call the free SAMHSA National Helpline

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Substance abuse among senior citizens can be a problem and there is a variety of contributing factors.

The Drug Enforcement Agency, El Paso Division joined KTSM 9 News to talk about this issue, saying that while illicit drug use typically declines after young adulthood, nearly 1 million adults aged 65 and older live with a substance use disorder, according to data reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic health conditions tend to develop as part of aging, and older adults are often prescribed more medicines than other age groups, leading to a higher rate of exposure to potentially addictive medications.

“Other risks could include accidental misuse of prescription drugs and possible worsening of existing mental health issues. Persistent pain may be more complicated in older adults experiencing other health conditions,” said DEA El Paso Division Public Information Officer Carlos Briano. “Some older adults may take substances to cope with big life changes such as retirement, grief and loss, declining health or a change in living situation.”

There are ways to help if you suspect an older loved one is struggling with substance abuse.

“Just like with our young people, it’s important to have an open, honest discussion with our parents and grandparents,” Briano said. “Although the thought of them abusing substances is disturbing, many behavioral therapies and medications have been successful in treating substance use disorders in older adults.”

You can also call the free SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP to receive guidance and referrals 24/7.

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