Older adults often face a number of drastic changes in their lives. They retire, their kids move out, and they may face more medical problems. These changes can lead to depression, boredom, anxiety, or other issues. Some seniors choose to alleviate these symptoms by drinking and deal with increased alcohol consumption.
Studies show that about 12.3 percent of men and 8.4 percent of women between the ages of 57-85 suffer from depressive symptoms and heavy or binge drinking. In some cases, people use alcohol to cope with depressive symptoms. Heavy drinking could be the direct result of social isolation. Other times, increased alcohol consumption can bring on depression. There’s evidence, too, that the more a person drinks during the later years of their lives, the more at risk they are for depression.
Have You Developed a Substance Use Disorder?
Determining if you or your loved one has developed a substance use disorder is an important first step. It provides an understanding of whether professional treatment is needed. Common signs of addiction include:
- Consuming increasing amounts of alcohol over time
- Being unable to control how much you drink at a time (you may want to limit consumption but never seem to be able to do so)
- Drinking alone, in the morning, or at other strange times
- Feeling headaches, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and other withdrawal symptoms when you do not use
- Wanting to stop drinking but being unable to
Depression may mask some of these symptoms. It can also be difficult to know if a person is suffering from clinical depression when they are drinking. Some signs of depression may include:
- Not wanting to engage in social activity
- Pulling away from activities once enjoyed, even hobbies you used to do on your own
- Feeling sad, hopeless, and unable to see the good in each day
- Talking about how tired you are or how you’re just not interested in doing anything anymore
- Talking about death and dying
- Not reaching out to loved ones on a consistent basis
What Can Be Done to Treat Addiction and Depression?
Depending on the severity, treatment options are available and can be highly effective at reducing depressive symptoms, overcoming substance use, and rebuilding a better quality of life. In some cases, addiction treatment may prolong a person’s life as well.
Here are a few things to consider about treatment for addiction and depression in an older person.
- Treat mental health seriously: A person cannot snap out of a bad mood or just get over it. Often, they need to get into therapy and work through the challenges. Many people need medications to alleviate the symptoms they cannot control.
- Seek out addiction treatment: Outpatient treatment for alcohol use disorder may be one of the best things a person can do. A number of therapies can help a person to recognize what’s occurring and take steps to stop it.
- Consider detox: Some people who are heavy or binge drinkers need to consider a medical detox program that will safely and slowly allow a person to stop using without intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Detox also allows for a medical team to manage any health risks present.
- Work through past trauma: Some older adults struggle with past trauma. That trauma can become more of a problem as they slow down and have more time to think about it. Work through trauma from childhood or adulthood with a licensed therapist. Don’t push it aside or relive it, but work with a professional to understand what happened and to move beyond it in a healthy way.
- Address health concerns: Many older adults use alcohol and face depression because of illness or problems with mobility, communication, or pain. Seek out more aggressive treatment options to allow yourself to feel better. Improving your quality of life may require careful consideration of the treatment of addiction, depression, and your medical health.
Can Older Adults Get into Treatment Centers?
Residential treatment for addiction could be one of the most important decisions you make. These programs are available to seniors and may provide an opportunity to focus heavily on your well-being without having to worry about life around you.
For seniors who do not want to leave home, outpatient treatment programs, including intensive outpatient programs (IOP), may allow for living at home and receiving treatment on an ongoing basis. The first step in finding a program right for you is to reach out to a treatment center like The Ranch at Dove Tree in Lubbock, TX, to learn more.