There’s a misconception that addiction only affects younger adults. However, addiction can happen at any point in our lives. For those of us above the age of 65, admitting that we have an addiction can be extremely difficult. We also may feel ignored or unheard when trying to access services to help us overcome addiction. Yet, we deserve the same level of care and professional help as our younger counterparts.
Addiction is a growing problem for older adults in Australia
The causes of addiction in older people, like people of any age, vary. However, seniors use prescription drugs far more often than any other age group, which can increase the rate of abuse and dependency. They also are more likely to be experiencing chronic pain, isolation and other health issues. For some older adults, substance addiction may be a continuation of behavioural patterns from younger years or a way of coping with the stress and changes that come with the ageing process.
It’s important to note that recent illicit drug use has increased among those aged 60 and over, from 3.9 per cent in 2001 to 7.2 per cent in 2019, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
People aged 70 and over are also the most likely to drink daily (12.6 per cent), followed by people in their 60s (9.6 per cent).
How we can help
If you or a loved one are an older adult who thinks they may be struggling with addiction, reach out for help. At South Pacific Private, we provide specialised care for the treatment for addiction for all our patients, including those in the elderly age group. We recognise that adults over the age of 65 are likely to have unique health circumstances, including pain and comorbidities, and specific needs that differ from those experienced by younger generations. We also understand that each case of substance addiction is unique, with its own set of symptoms, drivers and underlying causes.
Older adults struggling with addiction may benefit from our in-group therapy sessions, which encourage interaction and connection with a range of people from different demographics.
Healing through community
For those over the age of 65, the prospect of entering a group therapy environment might be daunting. But research has shown that a healthy mix of age, gender and cultures in a group therapy setting is actually more beneficial for recovery than individual counselling. Many of our older clients report that they were pleasantly surprised how much they were able to learn from hearing the experiences of their younger cohort, as it gave them an opportunity to reflect on their own youth and what brought them to seeking treatment. Tori McCarthy, inpatient program manager at South Pacific Private agrees: “we know that mental health issues such as addiction, anxiety and depression don’t discriminate, and can impact anyone at any age”. And while many older Australians are hesitant to enter a group treatment environment, Tori says that overcoming this concern will be worth the effort. “It’s incredible to watch our older clients grow and learn from our younger ones during group treatment. Group therapy offers a unique sense of diversity between our clients and offers the chance to interact, learn and understand a community of people who you may not ordinarily interact with,” says Tori.
Online Self Assessments
Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.