In 2001, 1.7 million older adults in the United States required treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). Twenty years later, that number has more than doubled. In 2020, estimates suggested 4.4 million older adults sought addiction treatment. Aging in addiction recovery has become a critical issue that cannot be ignored.
Barriers to Treatment for Older Adults
Under Medicare coverage, inpatient and outpatient services for SUD are covered. However, patients may require Medicaid coverage to bridge the gap if they are experiencing mental health-related issues. The age-related insurance entitlement does not cover mental health services.
Fortunately, there are SUD treatment facilities designed to help older adults and their families find the help they need. Family programs, like the one at Renaissance Ranch, help loved ones of all ages support their family member in treatment and educate them on the treatment and recovery process.
Older adults who seek treatment for SUD and other mental health issues face unique and challenging circumstances and approaches. Treatment and recovery can become challenging for those who have families, careers, and lives they want to maintain while beating a deadly habit.
Being an Older Adult in Addiction Recovery
Even during the initial stages of treatment, older adults may find themselves in uncomfortable situations. Older individuals may feel out of place or awkward in group therapies and activities.
That kind of displaced feeling can continue into the recovery stage. However, it is essential to remember that these are people who are just like you, even if you are older than them. As all of us continue through recovery, we should remember that we are surrounded by a brotherhood of our peers.
There is a tendency for older people to make way for younger people and take on an elder role rather than the role of a participant and peer. Here are some tips you can use to get more comfortable in a group setting:
- Focus on your needs: Remember that you are not the “dad” to these younger men. You are brothers who rely on each other. Your needs are valid too. Speak to them proudly.
- Accept that younger people may be culturally different from you: Understanding each other through our differences makes each of us stronger.
- Remember to prioritize your health: Older individuals in recovery have unique health concerns. It is okay to talk about these things. You could have the information your peers need as they age in recovery. Be a resource for them.
Aging and SUD: What You Need to Know
People in elder populations are more likely to have health-related concerns even without using controlled substances. Some of these concerns include bone and muscular deterioration, neurological issues, and cardiovascular disease.
Substance abuse is likely to have a significant impact on these health-related issues. It can cause neurological impairment. Some studies have even shown that using cocaine in youth can result in faster physical and mental decline as we get older.
There are other health and wellness-related issues that older Americans face from substance abuse. For all ages, substance abuse has an adverse effect on dental health, neurological disease, and the development of diabetes. As individuals in recovery, it is important to see your medical practitioners regularly, including your dentist, and follow their recommendations.
The Links Between SUD and Age-Related Health
As you continue your journey in recovery, it is important for you to know some of the things you may be at risk for. If you experience any medical problems, contact your physician immediately. Some medical related issues relating to substance use disorder include:
- Cardiovascular issues: Controlled substances classified as stimulants can have a profoundly deleterious effect on the cardiovascular health of the individual. Some of the specific issues they may cause include migraines, seizures, heart attacks, and strokes. The damage these substances cause to the cardiovascular system can be assessed by a medical professional.
- Stroke: While the risk of stroke has been linked to stimulant substances, health risks increase with all controlled substances. The risk of stroke has even been linked to marijuana and alcohol abuse. These substances have a very negative effect on the brain and cardiovascular system, which your doctor can assess.
- Bone and muscular health: Using controlled substances has been linked to the development of joint pain, arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. One out of every seven people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis also had a diagnosis of SUD.
Staying Healthy and Aging in Recovery
Healthy aging is not always something that is within your control. Sometimes, staying healthy is controlled by genetic advantages that some people possess. Other times, health can be influenced by a host of factors, including fitness level, nutrition, regular doctor visits, and maintaining your mental health.
No matter where you are in your recovery journey, staying vigorous and aware of your medical situation is a great way to maintain health as you age. Regardless of your age, you can keep your vitality and rigor up by taking a few simple steps:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily
- Sleep restfully
- Listen to your doctor
- Attend therapy
- Rely on your brothers
No one is perfect, and no one’s health is perfect. However, we can all be happy and active, no matter our journey or our prognosis. Keep going and keep moving, positively and together. That is all there is to it.
Recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) is a lifelong process. However, there are unique factors that affect you as you age. Members of elderly populations may feel out of place in treatment and recovery settings, but remember that you are around your brothers and peers. A significant factor aging populations face is health-related issues. Substance abuse can affect how we age and how health problems manifest and affect our lives. You can get through it by exercising, eating right, listening to your doctor, and going to therapy. When you need someone to talk to, Renaissance Ranch is here to support you. Call us today and talk to your brothers at (801) 308-8898.