Debunking Addiction Stereotypes: Substance Abuse & Age
When you think about the stereotypical drug or alcohol addict, what image comes to mind? Is the person you pictured wealthy or poor? Black or white? Young or old? No matter what you’re picturing, you would be mistaken to assume that this image represents the entire population of people struggling with addiction.
Addiction Doesn’t Care How Old You Are
As we’ve shown throughout this blog series, addiction affects people in all walks of life. In this post, we’ll look at addiction across age groups. While it’s true that some age ranges experience addiction at higher rates than others, practically every age group is affected by substance use disorders.
Substance Abuse in Young People
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), young people moving into adulthood exhibit high rates of substance abuse. There are many well-documented reasons for this:
Peer Pressure: Perhaps more so than any other age group, young people are commonly influenced by strong feelings of desire to fit in with their friends.
Curiosity & Boredom: Many young people report experimenting with alcohol and other drugs out of sheer curiosity or boredom.
Self-Medication: Like adults, teens know that drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief from emotional pain , lack of concentration, racing mind, lack of interest or anxiety.
Modeling Parents Behavior: Young people who grow up with parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to do the same.
Substance Abuse Among Adults & Seniors
SAMHSA also reports that drug and alcohol abuse in adults, specifically those in their 50s and early 60s, is increasing. This could be partly attributed to the aging boomer population, which has historically used drugs at a higher rate than previous generations.
Like young people entering adulthood, people entering their retirement years may face a similarly challenging transitional period that could lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression. Situations such as dealing with new health problems, financial stress, or losing close friends and loved ones can all lead older adults to turn to alcohol or drugs for temporary relief.
Although this age group experiences substance abuse at a lower rate than young people, loved ones should stay alert for the warning signs of substance abuse. Warnings signs of drug abuse in older adults can include the following:
• Unexplainable changes in sleep patterns or appetite
• Sudden increase in falling
• Changing physicians often or “doctor shopping” to obtain additional medications
• New onset irritability, agitation or unusual states of confusion
• Appearance of empty liquor bottles
Addiction Affects People of All Ages
As you can see, addiction isn’t just a young person’s problem. Addiction is a behavioral health concern that affects all of us – privileged or underprivileged. Minority or majority. And, increasingly, young or old. At The Raleigh House, we offer comprehensive addiction rehab that is customized to meet the unique needs of every demographic. If you suspect that a loved one of any age is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, we are here to help.