Isolation & Substance Abuse Among Seniors

Lake Ave Recovery’s esteemed Dr. James DiReda and Jack Maroney along with their childhood friend, Henry Grosse (in memoriam) co-authored The East Side of Addiction, a story of a local inner-city neighborhood’s coming of age during the drug culture of the 60’s and how addiction impacted their lives. Now in long-term recovery, they set out to share their knowledge and experience and discuss matters that are hitting our society today. Jack and Jim recently delivered a passionate virtual presentation on a growing issue that needs to be magnified by our society: substance use among the elder population.

When discussing the rise in substance use disorders among seniors, it is important to understand the risk factors that led to this point and the impact that, not only drug misuse, but also the current pandemic has on this particularly vulnerable community.
Stress, trauma and isolation are the key risk factors for substance misuse among people over 50. With the exponential spread of the COVID-19 virus, seniors are being forced to isolate themselves more than ever before. Losing the freedom to partake in group activities and family gatherings or even the disruption of an everyday routine can take a toll on one’s mental health.

Jack and Jim went on to explain the distressing statistics surrounding substance misuse among the elderly. The Administration on Aging and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services estimates that the number of older individuals who misuse opioids have doubled from 2004 to 2020, while number of deaths related to overdose have more than tripled. Over 1.2 million over the age of 45 reported opioid misuse in the past month. Opioid misuse in this population, as well as younger individuals most commonly begins with a legitimate opioid prescription from a doctor.