Substance Abuse and the Retirement Community

Many people over the age of 65 feel that once they reach the retirement stage of their lives, there is no more meaning left and that they have nothing to lose. According to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, 17% of seniors over 65 have abusive prescription medicine and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc says 30% of them are given the prescription medicine. Senior citizens need to learn that going under the influence of alcohol and drugs is not a way to spend retirement but to use this stage as an opportunity for trying new things and meeting new people.

There are two kinds of senior citizen addicts. “Hardy survivors” are those who have abused substances for many years up to their retirement and “late onset” is a group where addiction comes later after retirement. There are many reasons why a senior citizen would want to engage in drugs or alcohol such as to self-medicate from the death of loved ones, financial problems, being placed in a nursing home, family problems, having trouble sleeping, and when their health is declining from having major surgeries, memory loss, or injuries.

The danger of senior citizens taking abusive substances, with the most dangerous being benzodiazepines, is that this is known as a hidden epidemic. It is easy to confuse the symptoms of alcoholism and drug use with other mental health or physical issues that senior citizens normally go through like dementia, diabetes, or depression. Many symptoms you can detect in senior citizens under the influence are unexplained bruises, changes in eating habits, living in isolation, not bathing, lack of interest in usual activities, unexplained chronic pain, and much more. Senior citizens have a harder time metabolizing drugs or alcohol as well as their brains being more sensitive.

In order to avoid substance abuse problems in retirement, senior citizens over 65 should only be having one drink a day. They need to find more interesting, spiritual activities and hobbies to fill up the extra time that they have. They can use this opportunity to learn something new or be a mentor to those who are trying to start their careers. Senior citizens need to learn not to use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their sadness but to go to counselling. Most importantly, senior citizens need to see the worth in their lives and make the most of it.


Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. A number of senior patients have been successfully for alcohol and drug addiction at Smarmore Castle Private Clinic through 12 Step programs, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.

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