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Aging and Drug Addiction

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 1st 2012

Aging and Drug AddictionThey are called the "golden years," the days when people reach the age when the kids are grown and have their own kids, work is done and it's time to retire and enjoy life. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), many aging Americans are not finding anything "golden" now that they are older. According to statistics, as reported by SAMHSA, illegal drug use among senior citizens has doubled between 2002 and 2009. There is concern that we are heading towards an epidemic of addiction to alcohol and drugs among people 48 years of age and older.

It's ironic that a lot of time, attention and effort has been focused on preventing addiction among young people. That is as it should be and it's been extremely helpful. While that effort continues, it is time to intervene into the lives of aging Americans, many of whom are becoming alcohol and drug addicted.

Almost parallel to the challenges of being young, older people face challenges that lead to addiction. For example, facing retirement is not an easy thing for many. People define who they are by what they do at work. Others fear that, once they retire, they will feel useless.
Then, too, there is worry that they will not have enough money after retirement and will not be able to live comfortably.

As a result of these and other problems, older people are experiencing depression and anxiety at higher rates than ever before. It is probably the reason why so many of them are turning to drugs and alcohol at this stage of life. Naturally, that does not solve their problems, as it never does for anybody.

For all of us who have family and friends who are getting older, it's important that we speak to them if we see the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression. There is lots of information on this web site where the symptoms of both addiction and depression can be found.

Do you have an aging loved one who is drinking more and appears to be depressed? How is it being handled and what are the problems connected with that? Let's discuss these problems by submitting comments at the end of this article.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

I look forward to reading comments and questions about this problem.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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