I found this story about substance abuse in older americans today:
Dramatic Increase in Substance Abuse Among Older Americans

The article focuses on a new report being released by SAMHSA today, which shows that substance abuse among people aged 50 and older has more than doubled between 1992 and 2008.  This is the key part of the piece:

Director of the substance abuse organization’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Peter Delany said, “What we have is a group of older people who have fewer resources socially, fewer fiscal resources, and have less employability. The impact on treatment is that these people are probably going to need a little more support in wraparound services, including helping them get employed, getting them a source of reliable income, helping them get stable living situations.”

Loneliness, unemployment and lack of money make for a prime candidate for abuse. Given that the report showed patients reporting having no principal source of income increased from 11% in 1992 to 28.8% in 2008, as well as a lower rate of marriage or never having been married support the possible origins of the abuse. No significant other or boss to monitor behavior or intervene.

It paints a realistic picture of the reasons some people may fall into substance abuse habits – because they’re lonely, unemployed and idle, and with few social restraints to keep their behavior in check.  This makes sense, and unlike the disease concept of addiction, it gives us an idea how to help our loved ones. We can help our older relatives to build more social connections, we can encourage them to find rewarding work or activities, and we can help them to find meaning in their lives.  These are the normal struggles of life, and when one loses ground on these fronts, substance use can become more attractive as a shortcut to happiness and fulfillment, but everyone should be reminded that if we jump back up on the horse and earn our happiness, it will take us much further than excessive substance use ever possibly can.  Keep these truths in mind, they’ll be more useful than a futile fight against an imaginary disease.

Share This