One needs to adapt a healthy lifestyle in order to lead a happy and peaceful life. However, many unhealthy habits creep into life for some or the other reason. Alcohol or substance abuse is one such deadly habit which is common among both youth and older adults.
Substance abuse was once considered a problem only among the teenagers or young adults. Unfortunately, unhealthy habits like alcohol or substance abuse have profound implications on the health and well-being of older adults as well. The intention of this article is to make them (older adults) understand that ‘it is never too late to overcome unhealthy habits’.
Unhealthy habits like substance abuse are very dangerous
Young or old, unhealthy habits like alcohol or substance abuse spares no one. Substance abuse impacts the health negatively. It also poses serious threat to financial and social status of the individual. Due to lack of awareness on the harmful effects and because of some misconceptions, many older adults are continuing to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs and destroying their lives.
Millions of adults are abusing illicit drugs – SAMHSA
When it comes to substance abuse, we often think that only teenagers in huge numbers are abusing drugs. But the fact is that millions of older adults too are abusing drugs today. Based on the data from NSDUH surveys, SAMHSA estimated that there were around 4.3 million illicit drug abusing adults (50 years and above).
Older adults are more vulnerable to adverse effects
As discussed before, substance abuse gives rise to numerous health, economic and social problems irrespective of the age of the person. The changes, however, because of age make the older adults more vulnerable to adverse effects. Drug or alcohol abuse is the common cause of physical and mental health problems in older adults. Because of the changes that happen in the mind and body, the resistance power in older adults decreases making them more vulnerable to adverse effects of drug abuse. Illegal drug usage in older adults increases the risk of damage to vital organs like heart, brain and lungs.
There are many wrong notions on substance abuse among older adults. These prevent them from withdrawing the habit. Some of the common misconceptions are:
Stopping at this age won’t help – damage is already done
Many of the substance abusing older adults assume that stopping this habit at this age won’t help. They believe that the damage is already done as they are abusing drugs from many years. However, this is quite wrong. Staying away from this harmful habit helps in recovering from the damage done and prevents further damage.
Difficult to come out now
We often hear many older adults saying “I have been abusing drugs for a long time and it is very difficult to avoid them now.” But, they need to understand that a strong will-power, commitment and planning can help them overcome this habit.
Substance addiction is preventable
It is purely a misconception that prevention of substance abuse is impossible at an older age. Determination to lead a healthy life is enough to turn away from the unhealthy habits. However, one needs to design and implement a proper plan to give up this unhealthy habit. Counseling from professionals of rehabilitation centers and other clinical institutions can bring a sort of positive attitude in the abusers. Further, encouragement from family and friends also helps them in avoiding the drug usage.
Practice healthy living habits
Regular practice of healthy living habits can reduce the adverse effects of substance abuse in older adults. Healthy diet should be an essential part in their routine. Walking along the park, bicycling, or practicing yoga can be helpful. Though it is difficult to change lifestyle at once, older adults can slowly turn towards healthy habits.
An older adult can improve the health and quality of his/her life, provided proper awareness on issues associated with aging and substance abuse, and by practicing healthy lifestyle.