Becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol is something that most people don't associate with older age, but an estimated 2.8 million older adults in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, a number that experts are expecting to rise to 5.7 million by 2020. Alcohol isn't the only substance of choice; a 2013 study found that illegal drug use among adults 50 to 64 increased from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 6.0 percent in 2013, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Sylvia Dobrow "drank like a lady," as she told the Times, before her drinking problem began to spiral out of control. She even went so far as to match her white wine to her tuna sandwiches and her rose with roast beef. Before she knew it, Dobrow was spending the day drinking, chasing glasses of vodka with skim milk.
After a particularly heavy drinking binge in 2007, Dobrow fell out of her bed and got a black eye. This was a rock bottom of sorts, and her two daughters - one of who was a nurse - took her to a recovery facility in California that specializes in adults over 55. Dobrow, who was 73 when she entered treatment, stayed for a month and attended 12-step meetings when she returned home. She has been sober ever since, according to The Times.
Peter A. Bamberger and Samuel B. Bacharach wrote "Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic" over the course of 10 years and conducted a study on substance abuse in older adults. They discovered that the effect of retirement on substance abuse was complicated, with the conditions leading to retirement and the economic and social implications of the retirement having a large impact on substance use than just being in retirement.
Some retirees are depressed and lonely, turning to drugs or alcohol to fill a void and calm their anxieties. Events also arise later in life that require older adults to have coping skills they may not have, and they turn to drinking to deal with loses of friends, care givers and spouses.
Among between 50 and 54 are most likely to abuse substances. Older men are more likely to use drugs than women, but women over 60 are more likely to abuse perscription pills than men, according to Starlite Recovery Center. The two most commonly used substances among all older adults were marijuana and alcohol.
As for Dobrow, her recovery gave her a brand new sense of purpose, and she went back to school to become accredited as a substance abuse counselor. She works part-time counseling other older adults in Hemet Valley, Calif., reported the Times.