By Scott Trout, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient of Excellence
A New And Alarming Trend
In recent years, the number of older adults entering treatment for alcohol and drug addiction has been on an alarming upward trend. A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that drug abuse (including prescription drugs) among adults aged 50 to 59 jumped from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 5.8 percent in 2010, and that among those 55 to 59, the rate approximately doubled from 1.9 to 4.1 percent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 5,900 Americans age 50 or older fatally overdosed on opioid-based pain medication in 2014 — that’s nearly an eleven fold increase since 1999.
An additional factor in the meteoric rise in addiction rates for older adults is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. Another report from SAMHSA shows that by the year 2020, the rate of addiction in the baby boomer generation is going to require roughly double the current availability of treatment services.
According to the same report, an estimated 4.3 million adults aged 50 or older used an illicit drug in the past year, and among those aged 65 or older, nonmedical use of prescription drugs and alcohol abuse were the most common forms of substance abuse observed.
Why Are We Seeing This Trend?
Surveys conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) find that older adults are attempting to cope with more life-stress than ever before. We see that stress is having a dramatic effect on the health of those 50 and older who care for both their aging parents as well as their adult children.
2. High Risk Health Conditions
Those who have been diagnosed with ailments such as:
- Depression and/or
…are also at a much higher risk of developing bad habits leading to dependency.
3. Isolation, Loneliness, and Boredom
Other major factors include isolation, loneliness, and – in particular – boredom. A recent study by the University of California, San Francisco found that older adults’ quality of health dramatically decreases in those who feel bored or lonely, despite very little change in the number of those who report feeling bored and lonely. Those who say they felt isolated also claim they have a harder time bathing, dressing, eating and just getting around than those who feel connected to others.
Are Substance Use Disorders Underdiagnosed?
Alcohol and drug abuse is a somewhat hidden problem in the eldercare arena, as many caregivers and medical professionals fail to recognize the symptoms for what they really are. Memory problems, confusion, dizziness, an unsteady gate, tremors and all the other symptoms of alcohol or drug abuse are frequently misdiagnosed by medical professionals who think they are looking at signs of dementia or other age-related medical issues. As a result, many of the older adults who need help with substance abuse do not receive the advice and treatment they really need.
One of the major issues facing older adults with drug and/or alcohol addiction is the litany of health issues that can complicate the substance abuse and make intervention more difficult. This can include:
- High blood pressure
- Psychological problems
- Reduced organ function
…and a host of other factors. The problem is that when you combine these kinds of health conditions with an active addiction, it makes treating that individual a complicated and risky venture. Depending on the level of physical dependence, some addiction facilities won’t take older adults due to the complexities involved in detox and treatment.
The Importance Of A Tailored Approach
Each patient and situation is unique, so it is imperative that we provide individualized treatment customized for the best possible opportunity for long-term sobriety. In fact, we at Enterhealth have seen a gradual and steady increase in patients of post-retirement age who deal with addiction, and we expect that to continue that number to grow as more Baby Boomers enter retirement.
Because older adults have such unique and challenging issues surrounding drug or alcohol addiction, treatment should begin with a comprehensive medical and psychological drug and alcohol addiction assessment. These assessments include:
- Personality and neurocognitive testing
- A psychiatric diagnostic evaluation
- An addiction severity assessment
- An addiction-related quality of life assessment
…all designed to determine the most important areas of clinical concern for that individual patient.
As we conduct our drug and alcohol addiction evaluation, we take into account all physical, psychological, neurological, spiritual and relational aspects of each patient’s life. This in-depth assessment allows our board-certified, addiction-trained physicians, psychiatrists and therapists to develop a highly personalized drug or alcohol addiction treatment plan for seniors that is exactly the right plan for you or your loved one.
Why Is A Personalized Plan So Important?
Once a personalized addiction treatment plan is prepared, the patient’s progress should be regularly monitored and treatment coordinated by an entire medical, psychological and therapeutic team. All information is consolidated into a personal feedback report that will inform the patient and his or her family of recovery progress.
Medical Detox Begins The Process!
In reputable treatment centers, every drug and alcohol detox is closely supervised by our addiction-trained medical experts and withdrawal symptoms are carefully managed. With latest research-based medical protocols, anti-addiction medication therapy and a 24-hour on-site medical staff, detox services are most effective when they are conducted in a safe, luxurious, private environment. That same medical staff is well-equipped to handle the sometimes complicated medical issues presented by the older population.
Of course, alcohol or drug detox alone is not addiction treatment. Rather, it is a technique used to get the substance safely out of a patient’s body so that proper addiction treatment may begin. After withdrawal stabilization, your loved one should be treated according to his or her personalized treatment plan.
Addressing The Underlying Issues And Medical Concerns
Every example of addiction is different in terms of how it affects the body, and each drug addict or alcoholic has a unique combination of personal history, co-occurring psychological or medical conditions and external or social factors that contribute to the abuse. Unique treatment approaches are tailored to address each patient’s addiction level, abuse patterns and co-occurring issues.
How We Address Co-Occurring Disorders
The full-time, board-certified medical team at Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient of Excellence, as well as our overall medical approach to recovery, enables us to uniquely address the diagnostic and treatment challenges of dual-addiction disorders. Most dual-addiction treatment programs simply are not equipped to treat clients with a dual diagnosis.
By using our thorough assessment to uncover any co-occurring conditions, Enterhealth is able to treat both simultaneously, leading to much improved patient outcomes. In addition, addiction itself often creates physical and psychiatric ailments, making it necessary to differentiate between issues that are substance induced and those that are pre-existing and treating them separately and safely.
The Enterhealth addiction treatment program approaches the two disorders with a very personal, integrated approach. Recovery is a lifelong process, not a short-term cure, and should include education about the disease and development of coping skills to handle life’s challenges.
Our experience treating addiction and our highly trained addiction psychiatrists and therapists incorporate medically validated treatments and techniques that simply cannot be obtained at a lower level of care or in a traditional treatment program. These include:
- Intensive One-On-One Patient Therapy
- In-Depth Family And/Or Couples Therapy
- Trauma Resolution
- Pain/Anxiety Management
- Neurological Testing And Treatment
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Spiritual/Faith-Based Classes
Appropriate family involvement and treatment are critical components of long-term alcohol and drug addiction rehabilitation. As part of the addiction recovery process at Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence, we offer individualized family therapy sessions, as well as educational support for families in group settings. Patients and family members are taught to rebuild and establish healthy relationships by relearning healthy coping and communication skills.
To learn more about Enterhealth’s personalized treatment plans, dual-diagnosis treatment, as well as the latest in science-based addiction treatment, you can visit our website or call (855) 393-8656.