Addicts are young homeless people who shoot up in back alleys with criminals, right?
Wrong. In fact, addicts come in all shapes and sizes. They can be your next door neighbor. Perhaps they are the soccer mom down the street. They can even be our parents, no matter how old they might be.
In fact, the elderly is a growing demographic in terms of addiction. And while they might not necessarily be more apt to shooting heroin or snorting cocaine, they’ve got other drugs of choice.
More specifically, pain pills and alcohol.
Think about it: as you get older, it’s more likely that physical ailments will set in. Back backs, aching joints, crippling arthritis. The list can go on and on.
And many seniors who experience pain are typically prescribed pain pills, including opioids, Percocet, or even morphine, which are super addictive.
What’s worse is that painkillers mixed with alcohol can have even more catastrophic effects. Mixing the two can have serious and sometimes even fatal consequences.
Spotting Addiction to Pain Pills and Alcohol in the Elderly
Here are a few telltale signs to tell if your parents are suffering from an addiction.
An obvious sign that your parents might be drinking too much and topping it up with pain pills is slurred speech. Alcohol has a certain effect on a person’s brain, especially when drinking in excess.
Another obvious sign of excessive drinking is the smell of alcohol on the breath.
A decline in Personal Hygiene
If your parents are normally on top of their personal hygiene and you suddenly notice a decline in this area, there may be a problem.
Loss of Appetite
It’s common for addicts to suffer from a loss of appetite, which then leads to inevitable weight loss. A loss of appetite also causes a decrease in energy levels as well.
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are usually quite defensive when people question them about their behavior or activity. They may be in denial about their addiction as well and even go so far as to blame others for their problems.
Faking Pain or Illness
In order to get their hands on more painkillers, addicts will embellish their symptoms to get a prescription from their doctors.
Because of a lack of energy and less effective metabolism in seniors, excessive sleep is common.
Even the most emotionally stable people can suddenly become angry or aggressive for no apparent reason.
Seniors are already susceptible to being physically unstable and even falling as a result. But this issue becomes worse when a person has been taking too many prescription medications or drinking too much.
Loss of Memory
Memory issues tend to be a growing problem with people as they age. But throwing addiction into the mix can make the situation even worse.
Dangers of Mixing Pain Pills and Alcohol
Both painkillers and alcohol can cause some serious side effects on their own, especially in the elderly. But when you combine the two together the effects can be disastrous.
Potential effects of mixing the two include the following:
Possible Synergistic Effects
Pain pills depress the central nervous system functions, which is how they are able to reduce feelings of pain in the user. Alcohol does the same sort of thing.
When you mix the two together, their effects on depressing the central nervous system can become powerful and cause a much more severe depressive effect than either one taken individually.
Drinking alcohol and taking pain pills can increase the sedative effect.
Potential for Overdose
Overdoses from painkillers like opioids have been on the rise over the recent past. In fact, overdose deaths have become an epidemic across the nation. On their own, painkillers can cause an overdose. But when you introduce alcohol as well, much less of the drug is needed to overdose.
In addition to the above-mentioned effects of mixing pain pills and alcohol, the body can experience any one of the following:
- Brain damage
- Love failure
- Cardiovascular events
- Slowed breathing
What Can You Do If Your Parents Are Suffering from Addiction?
One of the best things you can do is recognize the potential for addiction. Without recognizing the signs, getting your parents’ help will likely never happen.
If all the signs are pointing to an addiction to pain pills and alcohol, then your parents certainly need some intervention. As an adult child, you might feel helpless and powerless in the situation. But take heart, because there are some things you can do to get your parents the help they need.
When an addiction is identified, it’s important to seek out an addiction treatment center that is specifically experienced with working with the elderly who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
More specifically, look into programs that specialize in addiction to painkillers and alcohol in those over the age of 65 years. Try to find centers that also provide case management services, since people in the older demographic usually don’t have the same type of social support that is necessary throughout recovery.
These types of specialized services offer seniors access to necessary medical, social, and psychiatric resources that can ensure that the elderly enjoy a healthy, addiction-free lifestyle that can be continued well after treatment has been successfully completed.
There are plenty of resources available that can help guide you and point you in the right direction. Just one phone call can put you and your parents on the right path to finding the ideal type of program needed to help your folks beat their addiction.
Find out More About Addictive Drugs
Whether your parents are suffering from addiction to pain pills and alcohol, or someone else you know is, the time to get help is now. And while you’re at it, it’s helpful to find out as much as you can about the types of drugs that can cause addiction and what you can do to alleviate symptoms.
To find out more about addictive drugs and what you can do to combat addiction, visit our blog today!