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Older Adults, Alcohol and Other Drugs
Warning Signs the Ship is Sinking

How do you know if an elder is struggling with chemical dependency or merely showing signs of aging?  Often the lines are blurred (pardon the pun) or so integrally intertwined that it is almost impossible to tell.  But if you know what to look for and are not afraid to look more closely when you suspect something is wrong, the signs become more neon than opaque.

Physical Changes: 

Behavioral Changes:

Performance Changes:

Most of the time, you won’t see an elder drinking excessively.  You may not see them drinking at all.  You will probably never see an older adult combining pills or other drugs with their liquor.  What you will see, however, are the effects of their chemical use.  Many of the symptoms of alcoholism and chemical dependency mirror the symptoms of other illnesses or advancing age.  Because chemical problems are hidden or masquerade as other illnesses or infirmities, it creates confusion in those who might see or suspect a problem.  Sadly, the overwhelming tendency is to ignore these glaring symptoms or pass them off as something other than a problem with alcohol or other drugs.  When this happens, the disease progresses, leaving damaged and destroyed lives in its wake.

If others see the signs or are expressing concern, the alarm bells are sounding at full volume.  Don’t ignore these warning signs.  They will not go away; they will only get worse!  By the time anyone has noticed, even just one person, the situation is serious . . . very serious.  Remember, what you are seeing may be the symptoms of a deadly disease, a disease that needs treatment.  The good news is that chemical dependency amongst older adults is highly treatable.  With proper treatment people go on to lead full, active, happy lives.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, please call (415) 717-3675 for information and help.

(Second in a series of articles on Chemical Dependency in Older Adults)