Excessive Drinking by Older Americans Expected to Grow

Burden of alcohol (Photo: iStock)
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DANVERS, MA–The number of older Americans who drink excessively is up 42 percent and their use of illicit drugs is now  higher than in almost any other country in the world and is expected to grow substantially in both number and proportion.

Substance use disorders among people older than 50 years are projected to increase from about 2.8 million in 2006 to 5.7 million in 2020, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Substantial evidence indicates that substance use among older adults — also known as the baby boomer generation whose last members are now comfortably over the age of fifty — has been underidentified for decades.

According to the Vice President of Clinical Services for one of the largest addiction treatment center networks in the nation, at Recovery Centers of America (“RCA”) 25 percent of patients receiving treatment for drug and alcohol addictions are over fifty years of age.

Seventy-nine percent of baby boomer patients at Recovery Centers of America have an alcohol addiction, according to Weisenberger. That tracks with national data showing that alcohol is the most commonly used substance among older adults.

“At RCA we have seen a big increase of patients in this age group with a drug and alcohol addiction. In 2019, the number of patients over 50 admitted to one of our six inpatient locations has increased by nearly 21 percent,” RCA Vice President of Clinical Services Scott Weisenberger stated. “These ‘Baby Boomer’ addiction patients need a specialized age-tailored program while undergoing treatment in a smaller group setting where they can feel comfortable with others from a similar age group.”

Recovery Centers of America’s Evolutions Program for Older Adults was designed to provide patients over fifty with an enhanced curriculum tailored to the growing needs of this age group. One of the building blocks of addiction treatment is group and individual therapy and patients will experience group therapy with other older adults. This way, patients who feel uncomfortable in mixed-age therapy group sessions, can concentrate on their treatment, according to Weisenberger.

By creating an environment for patients in the same life stage whether it be empty-nesters, retirees, or those who have recently suffered a loss of a spouse or other loved one, the RCA Evolutions program allows patients to draw strength from each other as they navigate treatment together. According to Weisenberger, research shows that being surrounded by peers in addiction treatment can increase the likelihood of achieving and maintaining recovery.

RCA patients who choose the program will also benefit from:

  • Live seminars on addiction in mature adults including why addiction happens faster with older people.
  • Medication education detailing how medications interact with alcohol and how patients should manage their medication.
  • Updates on the latest research about Circadian Rhythms and the role it plays in sleep, hygiene, weight management, and the development of metabolic disorders like diabetes.
  • An individualized plan to increase feelings of self-purpose and eliminate guilt through mental exercises, volunteer efforts, wellness activities, or the development of a new hobby.
  • Mindfulness techniques that help patients move away from negative feelings and identify engrained physical cues to a patient’s drinking or drug usage.

“Addiction is a disease that tries to isolate you. Treatment works because you learn that you are not alone and there is no shame in having this disease, but that treatment is absolutely essential to get your life back again,” explained Weisenberger.

Evolutions is offered at RCA’s Danvers, MA, Devon, PA, and Waldorf, Maryland locations.

Recovery Centers of America (1-800 Recovery) provides comprehensive inpatient addiction treatment at facilities in Devon, PA; Mays Landing, NJ; Westminster and Danvers, Massachusetts; and Earleville and Waldorf, Maryland. A full spectrum of outpatient addiction treatment is also provided at many RCA facilities and in Vorhees, NJ. RCA also provides Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) with Methadone and Suboxone treatment options in Camden County, NJ and in Trenton, NJ.



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