Spotting a Substance Abuse Problem

Spotting a Substance Abuse Problem

Most seniors have accepted that medication is a necessary part of their daily life – and so it should be. Never before in history has our lifespan reached so far, and that’s largely thanks to the medical revolution which has taken place in the past century. Regardless of the age of medical wonders we now find ourselves within, there is still a responsibility which falls upon each and every one of our shoulders. With medication comes conditions, and if those conditions are not respected, the substance which was saving your life... could now be placing your health at risk.



Some statistics indicate that nearly 1 in 5 senior citizens drink at least one alcoholic beverage every day. Such frequency in consumption can increase depressive episodes, worsen existing medical conditions, and place undue stress on the liver. Now consider that many of these individuals are already consuming substantial doses of prescription medication, and a potential disaster begins to loom on the horizon. Alcohol significantly modifies the way in which other substances affect your body, so it can be extremely dangerous for seniors to consume their favourite beverages – especially if such consumption is excessive and frequent.

Associative symptoms such as balance problems, difficulty concentrating, involuntary muscle spasms, and brief periods of delirium can all be indicative that your liquor and medications are not mixing well.  Before consuming any alcoholic beverage, remember – you owe it to yourself to learn whatever potential side effects may be induced as a result of your next beverage. Don’t just familiarize yourself with the instructions associated with your medication – memorize them. Indeed, that knowledge will ensure many happy and healthy years to come.

Pain Medication

Modern day meds like OxyContin and Percocet have assisted millions of seniors who deal with pain on a daily basis. These powerful opiates have a fast-acting and potent affect on their users, and the strength of these drugs should easily indicate the importance of responsible usage. Exceeding a recommended dosage is indicative that dependency issues may be developing – so if you’re using up all your pain medications before your prescription is set to run out, that’s a tell-tale sign that there may be a problem. When opiate use stops being medical and becomes habitual, personality and mood swings begin to manifest themselves in unpredictable and chaotic ways. Outbursts, a short temper, and in inability to sit still can all be warning signs that a larger problem may be afoot.

If you’re concerned that your parent or loved one has become addicted to a narcotic-based medication, consult with their live-in caregiver to compare notes and see if any significant behavioural alterations are taking place. Often, when evaluating the mental condition of a loved one, we keep our opinions and concerns to ourselves – in an effort to shield those same loved ones from embarrassment, scorn, or humiliation. The difficulty with this strategy is it invites doubt to set in, and doubt is the seed which grows inaction. Talk these issues over with another individual who is in a position to judge your parent’s behaviour. This will ground your evaluation of the situation. Remember, a second opinion is rarely, if ever, a bad idea.

By Josh Byer

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