Drugs and the Over 65s

Older people turn to addictive drugs for a variety of reasons: retirement brings a sudden change of routine, possible isolation and loss of purpose; dealing with bereavement and failing health.

How widespread is the problem?

According to a recent government survey, illegal drug abuse among older people is far less than among younger age groups. However, this may be changing due to the aging “baby boomer” generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, who grew up in a more liberal and affluent society.

“Dramatic lifestyle changes, along with growing health problems, have led many to turn to alcohol, prescription painkillers, and marijuana to medicate their physical and psychological pain… Older adults are now hospitalized as often for alcohol-related problems as they are for heart attacks.” From the book Not as Prescribed by Hazelden Publishing, USA.

Patterns of Drug Abuse Among the Elderly

There tends to be two type of senior who abuse drugs: the “hardy survivors” who took up drug use in their youth, and used it recreationally ever since; and the “late onset” group who started consuming drugs in their sixties.

Risks and Vulnerabilities

Drugs are risky for people of any age but particularly so for the elderly. When drugs are consumed by younger people the liver and kidneys tend to work efficiently to clear the substances, but these functions in a typical grandparent are diminished.

The good news is that drug addiction can be treated in the same way in an older person as it would be in a rehab treatment clinic like Castle Craig, through a combination of specialist group and individual therapies in a residential setting.

Drugs and the Over 65s


Identifying the problem is difficult

Assessing the signs of addiction or drug abuse is difficult because many seniors take various prescription drugs and are susceptible to illnesses of old age, making it easy for health professionals (and family) to miss the signs.

Research also shows that families often don’t address drug abuse with the same vigour as they might with younger members of the family. There can be a reluctance to discuss the problem, a tendency to cover it up and explain it away. This compounds the fact that many people (both young and old) hide or deny their drug use.

In his book Substance Use and Older People, Dr Rahul Rao says:

“Substance use and addiction is an increasing problem amongst older people. The identification of this problem is often more difficult in older patients and is frequently missed, particularly in the primary care context and in emergency departments, but also in a range of medical and psychiatric specialties.”

Specialised Drug Rehab Treatment for the Elderly

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one, or if you are a senior citizen having problems controlling your alcohol or drug intake, get in touch with Castle Craig’s admissions team. Early recognition and treatment can help reset the damage drug addiction has on your body. If you think someone you love has a drinking problem, contact us to get help.

30 Years of Treating Addictions

Castle Craig Rehab has over 30 years of experience in treating alcoholism, drugs and gambling addiction. Our integrated residential rehab programme starts with a personalised detox process and medical care. Patients attend the therapy programme, which is made up of specialist therapies and complementary addiction therapies.

This includes individual therapy and group therapies that help each patient address their own personal history and psychological issues. Some of the specialist group and individual therapies that our patients attend include PTSD therapyEating Disorders group therapy, Women’s group therapy, Grief-therapy, Cross-Addiction therapy.

Castle Craig is a beautiful country mansion house, set in 50 acres of Scottish countryside. All our facilities are on the same site, we have a full-time medical team, and we have a lift and wheelchair access for less able bodied patients.