The national conversation on addiction has shifted, and we’re now even more aware of its dangers and prevalence. But since older Americans traditionally represent a smaller percentage of addiction rehab participants, they’ve in some ways become a shadow class of addicts.

Changing attitudes toward drugs and alcohol, as well as an aging population, have led to a growing number of seniors with addiction. When you consider that seniors are uniquely at risk for prescription medication addiction, we can grasp the true scope of the problem.

You may feel that a loved one, or yourself, is struggling with addiction. First, realize that you’re not alone. Many people have dealt with this. Today, we’ll cover some of the important details of this multi-faceted issue facing millions of Americans — from signs and symptoms to treatment options.

Watch for the Signs in Yourself and Others

As with any issue, the first step to fixing it is identifying that there’s even an issue. For this, you’ll need to look for the signs of addiction. Whether it’s an issue with alcohol or a drug, there are a few common signs, including if you or a loved one:

  • cannot stop using the substance;
  • experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking it;
  • use to self-medicate for physical or emotional issues;
  • are secretive when taking the substance; and
  • sacrifice other aspects of their personal lives.

The specific substance will feature some distinct signs. For example, alcohol smell on the breath or slurring words for drinking problems. For opioids, you may see signs of constipation or flu-like symptoms.

While millions suffer with opioids or alcohol, the issue of addiction can spread to just about anything.

Keep in mind that addiction isn’t only a substance or drug issue. While millions suffer with opioids or alcohol, the issue of addiction can spread to just about anything. Addiction is when there is a compulsion to use the substance or behavior for the gratification of a need to the extent where it takes precedence over the rest of your life.

Understanding this, know that addiction can take the form of phone addiction, gambling addiction, or even hoarding. These are commonly called behavioral addictions. If you or a loved one is showing these symptoms, it’s important that you keep reading.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

If you’re suffering from addiction or may be prone to addiction, seek out a support system. If you have family or friends, share your fears with them. It can also help to join a support group of people suffering from the same issues. Having this support is essential.

It’s often difficult for an addict to spot the signs in themselves, and while, recovering from addiction alone isn’t impossible, it’s much, much harder. This is even more dangerous for seniors, since they can be prone to social isolation.

While biology and family history influence your susceptibility to addiction, social factors can tip you over the scale as well.

Isolating yourself from others may also exacerbate the underlying issues that can lead to addiction. While biology and family history influence your susceptibility to addiction, social factors can tip you over the scale as well. In fact, depression and addiction are commonly comorbid, creating a dangerous cycle. Boredom is also a common cause of addiction. Having a strong support group can help you get to the bottom of the causes of an addiction.

Get Help!

If you or a loved one show any signs of addiction or have a history of addiction, it’s time to talk to your doctor. From here, your doctor will help you understand your options. Whether that’s a referral to a treatment program or group or suggestions on strategies, it’s an excellent first step.

Talking to your doctor is an excellent first step.

They will also be cognizant of any medications they’re prescribing you. Ultimately, it’s important that you get help, whether that’s in a rehabilitation center or a program, like a 12-step program. It’s also a good idea to meet with a doctor certified in addiction medicine by the American Board of Medical Specialities. If you do choose to go to a facility, make sure you read reviews and are picking a reputable one. Sadly, there’s a lot of disreputable that take advantage of addicts.

Is Help Covered by Medicare?

One of the biggest reasons people don’t go to rehab is the expense. If you’re a senior with Medicare, you’re in luck. A drug and alcohol rehab facility is considered an inpatient facility. This means if your provider determines that treatment is medically necessary, it’s covered by Medicare Part A at facilities that accept Medicare.

If you’re a senior with Medicare, you’re in luck. A drug and alcohol rehab facility is considered an inpatient facility.

Other rehab services are considered outpatient, so these would be covered by Part B. These services are also covered by Medicare Advantage plans. Combined with your Medicare coverage, finding help for your addiction is affordable and necessary.

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Addiction can and does ruin the lives of the afflicted but also their loved ones. And, because many hide their symptoms or are high functioning, it can be especially hard to identify. But, as Americans become more aware of the prevalence of addiction in our country, we have to get better at helping those afflicted.

This is especially true for senior addicts, who are often swept under the rug. If you or a loved one show signs of addiction, don’t ignore it or write it off as “just the way things are.” The sooner you get help, the sooner you can start building a brighter tomorrow.