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Drug Rehab Centers for Seniors

Last updated on: Friday, 8 March 2024

When searching for drug rehab for seniors, the first step is determining if outpatient or residential care is needed. This page gives access to rehabs for seniors in each province. In addition, we offer detailed information about programs to help you or your loved one make an informed decision. Getting a senior to rehab needs much care, and it is somehow specialized.


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Drug rehab for seniors are programs that tailor medical services, counselling, and recovery support to seniors struggling with drug addiction. Seniors often struggle with substance abuse, and few receive treatment for their drug or alcohol problems. Addiction treatment for seniors is drug rehab that is specialized to deal with the needs and requirements of senior citizens struggling with substance abuse. There are many cases where other forms of drug rehab are made up of clients from all age groups. However, some drug rehab programs are peer and age-specific programs tailored to the population of seniors.

Drug rehabilitation sometimes has special programs for treating drug addiction. Seniors struggling with substance abuse have distinct mental health, spiritual, emotional, and physiological needs that may require more attention through drug rehab. For example, most drug rehab programs for seniors are tailored to help patients rediscover meaning and purpose in life, address age-specific issues related to drug addiction, and provide appropriate support and therapy. In addition, drug rehab programs address the stigma of substance abuse and addiction, address wellness, and health concerns.

Seniors battling drug addiction will often need ongoing treatment and rehabilitation for a variety of substance use problems. Seniors are more likely to receive long-term prescriptions or to consume multiple medications. In addition, seniors are more likely to suffer from cognitive decline and memory loss, which are risk factors for prescription drug abuse. The elderly are also likely to take more over-the-counter drugs than any other age group, increasing the risk of unintended side effects from mixing medications. Drug rehab programs for seniors manage all the physical, medical, and psychological needs of seniors struggling with drug addiction.

When Should Substance Abuse Treatment for the Elderly be Considered?

The best time to consider drug rehab for the elderly is when the family has determined there is a substance abuse problem. Unfortunately, it may involve a family intervention because most people struggling with drug addiction are unwilling to accept help or attend drug rehab. The best way to plan and organize a family intervention is by hiring a professional interventionist. Family intervention brings family and friends together to confront the addict and convince them to attend drug rehab. Seniors struggle with drug addiction for many reasons. Some elderly became addicted to drugs in their early adult years and received no help or treatment.

Additionally, other elderly individuals become addicted to drugs in their later years because of major life changes that happen during this time. Some of the changes that older adults experience include retirement, the death of a loved one, health issues from advanced age, relocation to a nursing home or moving in with children, social isolation, and chronic pain. The family may begin to notice significant changes in physical and psychological health. Drug addiction is harder on an older body, and senior citizens often have health issues due to age. In addition, they have a slower metabolism to process alcohol and drugs.

Most drug addiction causes the individual to develop a tolerance and dependence, requiring more and more of the substance. The older a person gets, the more difficult it is for their body to metabolize alcohol and other drugs. The result is that the individual becomes impaired more quickly and is less able to tell how intoxicated they are. For example, this can lead to an increased risk of falling, vehicle accidents, and negative health consequences. Alcohol abuse, for example, can cause high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, diabetes, poor liver function, memory loss, and mood disorders. When families begin to notice physical changes and increased medical problems, they should take steps to intervene.

Most drug and alcohol addiction problems among seniors are underreported because it is difficult to recognize. It is common for people over the age of 65 to take medications and experience poor health. However, there are some red flags and indicators that family and friends can notice. For example, some of the signs may include doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions of the same drug, taking more medication than prescribed, and mixing alcohol with prescription drugs. In addition, they may start to drink heavily or often to the point of noticeable impairment. The family may also notice worsening health despite medications and drug paraphernalia or residue from illicit drugs.

How do Drug Rehab Programs for Seniors Work?

The drug rehabilitation process for seniors struggling with a drug addiction involves different steps and program options. The rehabilitation process of seniors is effective, and drug rehab should be well-rounded, providing support physically, mentally, and spiritually. Age-specific drug rehab centers are often the best route to take, especially for older people with general health issues. The first step is treating withdrawal symptoms. For seniors, drug detox programs include hospital inpatient services, medical detox, and clinical or standard drug detox. Withdrawal management is important, and the severity of withdrawal and underlying health problems determines what type of drug detox is needed.

Medical detox programs and hospital inpatient treatment provide more medical support and supervision to help seniors struggling with drug addiction. The next step of drug rehab should involve attending a residential or outpatient drug rehab program. Age-specific drug rehab centers employ specialists who understand how to rid older people of their addiction without depriving them of any of the treatment they need. Residential and outpatient drug rehab is effective. These options offer long-term and short-term drug rehab programs for seniors.

The counselling and therapy methodologies vary and include traditional and non-traditional approaches. Common behavioural therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy, 12-step facilitation, group and individual counselling, and family-based therapies. Non-traditional approaches include holistic treatment or a faith-based drug rehab program. The counselling and therapy methods are tailored to meet the needs of the client. The length of time needed in treatment is determined by the severity of drug addiction.

The next phase of treatment should involve aftercare support. The recovery process is important, especially for older adults, because relapse could be deadly. Common recovery support options include 12-step meetings for seniors, different peer support groups, transitioning to long-term care, or even a sober living home. It is important to have support during recovery and remain connected to other sober people.

Are There Alternatives to Drug Rehab Programs for Seniors?

There are different alternatives to a traditional drug rehab program for seniors. Complementary treatment methods, for example, are approaches or treatments used alongside traditional medical care. Alternative therapy is a term usually used when a treatment is used in place of conventional medical care, such as holistic treatment. Some of the other approaches include music therapy, art therapy, pet therapy, spiritual care, and massage therapy. Alternative drug rehab programs cater to the needs of individuals who are looking for a different approach to drug addiction treatment.

If the more traditional methods of treating drug addiction do not align with the patient’s needs or preferences, alternative approaches are better suited. Common alternative approaches include acupuncture, meditation, massage, yoga, chanting, reiki, aromatherapy, and vitamin supplementation. Most seniors want to rekindle a spiritual connection and may participate in daily religious activities or church service. In addition, they may use bible-based stories as part of a therapy session and take time for prayer and bible study.

Drug Use Among Seniors in Canada

Substance abuse impacts the senior population across Canada in different ways. The country is getting older, and the population’s share made up of older adults will grow to 25% in 2036. As the older population grows, so will the total number of older adults who use alcohol and other drugs. Overall, older Canadians generally use substances less frequently than younger Canadians. However, patterns of daily use are more common among older adults for prescription drugs and alcohol. According to a Substance Use and Aging Report, older adults use alcohol, prescription drugs, and other substances because of lifestyle changes, physical health, and social isolation.

The report states that the rates of clinically significant loneliness rise substantially in older adulthood. The estimates reaching as high as 40%, and loneliness is associated with a greater propensity to abuse alcohol. In addition, it can serve as both an initiating and maintaining factor in alcohol abuse. Prescription drug use is also one of the most common reasons older adults become addicted to drugs. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, one in four Canadian seniors was prescribed ten-plus drug classes in 2016. On average, Canadian seniors use more drugs than any other age group.

According to a 2016 report, nearly two-thirds of seniors were prescribed five or more different drug classes. More than one-quarter being prescribed ten or more different drug classes, and 8.4% prescribed 15 or more drug classes. Opioids are the eighth-most commonly prescribed drug class among seniors. In 2016, 19.3% of seniors were prescribed pain medication, and 3.5% were chronic drug users. In addition, the use of benzodiazepines in seniors is of concern due to the increased risk of cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, and fractures. However, the proportion of seniors using benzodiazepines decreased in 2016 to 14% from 17.5% in 2011.

Overall, seniors take more drugs than younger Canadians because they have a higher number of chronic conditions. Seniors in the Canadian population are estimated to account for 40% of all spending on prescribed drugs and 60% of public drug program spending. In 2012, for example, public drug program spending on seniors totalled $4.4 billion. The top ten drug classes accounted for 38.3% of total spending.

Ask a Professional

  • What is a drug rehab center for seniors?

    Drug rehab centers for seniors cater to the specific needs of seniors struggling with drug addiction. Substance use among the elderly is a significant problem. These programs tailor counseling, therapy, and medical conditions to their clients.

  • What causes addiction among the elderly?

    There are many potential triggers or causes for drug or alcohol addiction in the elderly. Some of the common triggers include retirement, death of a family member, spouse, or friend, loss of income, loss of purpose, relocation to long-term care, family conflict, and mental or physical health decline.

  • Is it challenging to identify addiction among the elderly?

    Yes, it can be quite difficult to identify. Alcohol and drug abuse can also mimic symptoms of other medical or mental health conditions. Substance use causes problems with memory, sleeping habits, unexplained bruises, chronic pain, changes in eating, and losing touch with loved ones.

  • How do I help an elderly loved one with a drug or alcohol addiction?

    The best way to help an elderly loved one with drug addiction is by way of family intervention. This process could be done with a qualified professional interventionist or a one-to-one loving conversation. Early intervention is critical because substance use among the elderly quickly becomes worse.

  • Want to know more?

    The questions from DrugRehab.ca’s “Ask a Professional” are answered by Nickolaus Hayes. If you need further clarification on any of the questions above or have any other questions you can contact him directly at N.hayes@drugrehab.ca.




More Information

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.