Age and Substance Abuse - (2023)

Understand the impact and outcomes of substance abuse for teens, adults and the elderly. Find out how drug addiction treatment can transform your life.

Age and Addiction

As we grow older, our bodies undergo several chemical and physical changes that alter the way we react to the world. When it comes to alcohol and drug abuse, this means that we can expect certain behavioral aspects to change and the trends to vary when looking at people in different age groups. Numerous studies have been done on the way that age affects drug and alcohol use and vice versa, and results show that there are definite correlations between substance abuse and the age of the addict.

Age of First Alcohol Use

Statistics have shown that those who start to drink alcohol at a younger age are more likely to become dependent later on. About 33% of the population tasted their first alcohol between the ages of 15 and 17, while 18% experienced it prior to this. As for alcohol abuse or dependence, the numbers start off high with those who first drank before they were 12 and then drop off after that. For example, 16% of alcoholics began drinking prior to turning 12 years old, while only 9% first touched alcohol between 15 and 17. This percentage is even lower, at 2.6%, for those who first started the habit after they were 21. These statistics clearly show that introducing a person to alcohol at a very young age can put them at severe risk of dependence or abuse later on in life.

Alcoholism in Teenagers

It has been shown that binge drinking is most prominent in youngsters between the ages of 18 and 22. As mentioned before though, alcohol abuse can start many years before this, and is a serious problem in today’s society. It is estimated that approximately three million teenagers in the USA are alcoholics and that 5,000 deaths each year can be connected to underage drinking.

For those who do binge drink, there may be difficulties in then obtaining many of life’s major goals, such as progressive career development, finding love, getting married, achieving financial independence, and receiving a higher educational qualification. This can then lead to further problems later on in life.

When treating an underage alcoholic, it is essential to realize that their behavior can stem from several other psychological disorders, such as:

* Depression
* Anxiety
* Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
* Antisocial Personality Disorder

Any treatment will have to focus on these disorders as well as dealing with the root problem of alcohol dependence or abuse. The drinking habits of the parents will also have to be considered as this can have a very influential effect on how a child behaves. In the treatment of an underage alcoholic, it may be important for the parents to make some sacrifices as well.

Alcohol Abuse in Older People

While alcoholism is dangerous at any age, these risks are even more pronounced when a person gets older. Once over the age of 65, it is possible for alcohol dependence of abuse to lead to a myriad of physical symptoms and a higher risk of injury or even death. The following are very real situations which can occur in the elderly who drink in excess of the recommended amount:

* The onset of cancer, liver damage and brain damage.
* A worsening of conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes and high blood pressure.
* Increased confusion or forgetfulness, which could be mistaken for Alzheimer’s.
* Increased risk of problems, such as heart attacks, as symptoms are hidden by the effects of excessive drinking.

It is also more likely that those over 65 will be taking medication, such as aspirin, laxatives or antihistamines. Mixing alcohol with these types of drugs can lead to symptoms such as internal bleeding, liver damage or constant drowsiness. Some medications also contain alcohol which can heighten the effect and lead to more pronounced risks in the aging alcoholic. In some cases, as with sleeping pills or anti-depressants, the results can be deadly.

Alcohol dependence and abuse in the elderly can stem from a variety of psychological disorders, such as depression, boredom, anxiety and loneliness. These root causes have to be tackled in any sort of treatment programs, whether this is done through a rehabilitation clinic or under family supervision at home, since they are the underlying reason why the patient feels the need to drink so often.

Drug Use, Teenagers and Young Adults

Like with alcohol, the earlier someone starts to use drugs, the higher the chance that they will grow to abuse or become dependent on them later on in life. In 2003, the average age for first drug use among admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities was 18.6 years. Among these patients, 14% started to use drugs prior to the age of 13 with marijuana being the earliest reported drug of abuse. Looking at total admissions and the drugs used, 23% used marijuana, 9% used stimulants, 5% used opiates and 4% used cocaine prior to their 13th birthday. Most of these underage drug users were referred to treatment programs through their schools or the criminal justice system. One interesting thing to note is that the number of admissions of those who took drugs prior to being 13 years old remains fairly unchanging regardless of how many past admissions they have had. This shows that their tendency to use remains in spite of spending time within drug treatment centers, especially in these younger users.

Overall, statistics have shown that illicit drug abuse rises with age until it peaks at those around 18 to 20 years old. After this, it decreases steadily as people get older. In 2001, 22.4% of drug users were aged 18 to 22. Compare this to the 3.8% of 12 and 13 years and the 4.5% of those aged 26 years and older who take illegal substances. In total, 51% of all illicit drug users were aged 12 to 25. These numbers vary with the type of drug though, and we can see that this age group prefers hallucinogens and inhalants. On the other hand, drugs such as cocaine and psychotherapeutics were used more commonly in those aged 26 and above.

Drug Abuse and the Elderly

Substance abuse is not just a problem for the youth of today, however. Painkillers, sleeping pills and other over-the-counter drugs can be a real risk for those aged 40 and above as well. Figures in this field are rising and new treatments will have to be developed to cater for this new group of drug dependent patients. Even though these individuals may have regular contact with the medical profession, the symptoms of drug abuse may go unnoticed and untreated. It is up to the families to keep an eye out for signs that their relative has grown dependent on their medication instead of using it as directed.

As well as this, as time goes on, the drug users of today will grow up and, if they still retain the habit, will have to be treated when they are older as well. Estimates show that by 2020, the US will require twice as many drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs as it does today. Whether the focus is on cannabis, cocaine, or painkillers, the need is there to develop the necessary procedures to treat the growing number of aging clients that is expected over the next decade or so.

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FAQs

How does age affect drug abuse? ›

Aging could possibly lead to social and physical changes that may increase vulnerability to substance misuse. Little is known about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the aging brain. However, older adults typically metabolize substances more slowly, and their brains can be more sensitive to drugs.

What age group is most affected by addiction? ›

The highest rate of current illicit drug use was among youth ages 18 to 20 (22.7%), with the next highest rate occurring among people ages 21 to 25 (21.5%).

Do addictions get worse with age? ›

Moreover, if addiction were truly a progressive disease, the data should show that the odds of quitting get worse over time. In fact, they remain the same on an annual basis, which means that, as people get older, a higher and higher percentage wind up in recovery.

What are risk factors for substance abuse among older adults? ›

The Dangers Of Substance Abuse In The Elderly

Individuals over 65 have a decreased ability to metabolize drugs or alcohol along with an increased brain sensitivity to them. This makes it dangerous for seniors to use drugs or alcohol at all, even if the person isn't addicted.

How does age affect treatment for addiction? ›

In terms of recovery, an older person with addiction issues is likely to find they have more deep-rooted issues at play than someone younger. They may have been dependent on alcohol or drugs for many years, during which time they are likely to have developed some long-term mental health problems.

Which type of substance abuse is most common among older adults? ›

Alcohol Misuse Among the Elderly

Overall, alcohol is the most frequently reported substance of abuse for persons aged 65 or older. There has been a steady increase in alcohol use among men and women aged 60 years or older in recent years, with a significant increase in binge drinking among women age 60 or older.

What are the 4 main risk factors of addiction? ›

Risk factors
  • Family history of addiction. Drug addiction is more common in some families and likely involves an increased risk based on genes. ...
  • Mental health disorder. ...
  • Peer pressure. ...
  • Lack of family involvement. ...
  • Early use. ...
  • Taking a highly addictive drug.
4 Oct 2022

Who is most at risk for substance abuse? ›

Risk Factors for High-Risk Substance Use
  • Family history of substance use.
  • Favorable parental attitudes towards the behavior.
  • Poor parental monitoring.
  • Parental substance use.
  • Family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Association with delinquent or substance using peers.
  • Lack of school connectedness.

Who is most vulnerable to substance abuse? ›

Children of Addicts

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), children of alcoholics and drug addicts are at a higher risk for becoming addicted themselves. Children of parents who abuse are 45% to 79% more likely to abuse drugs when compared to the general population.

What is the last stage of addiction? ›

Stage 4: Addiction

Once the final stage is reached, you have entered addiction and complete dependency upon the substance. It's no longer a question about whether or not you're addicted to drugs or alcohol.

What are 5 risk factors for addiction? ›

Regardless of your upbringing or moral code, many factors can raise your risk of becoming addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Your genetics, environment, medical history, and age all play a role. Certain types of drugs, and methods of using them, are also more addictive than others.

What personality traits are associated with addiction? ›

Impulsive and Risk-Taking

Personality traits such as impulsive behavior, a desire to seek sensation, and difficulty delaying gratification can contribute to an addiction.

What are the 6 causes of substance abuse? ›

Here are some of the most common causes of drug or alcohol addiction in men and associated signals to watch for.
  • Expectations of Masculinity and Self-Medication. ...
  • Pressure Relating to Life Circumstances. ...
  • Genetic Predisposition to Substance Use. ...
  • Health Conditions. ...
  • Trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences. ...
  • Grief.
6 Feb 2019

What are three factors that increase a person's risk for addiction? ›

There are certain factors that increase the risk of a person developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Genetics, family history, mental health, and the environment are some of the risk factors for addiction susceptibility.

What are the three risk factors for addiction? ›

Other factors that put a person at risk for an addiction include parental substance misuse, trauma, and a lack of social attachments. These are called individual factors and they're part of the “big three” in areas of risk -- individual, environmental and genetic.

Does substance abuse contribute to elder abuse? ›

Daly et al. (2008) included substance use problems as a risk factor in elder domestic partners and found it to be significantly associated with emo- tional abuse.

What is at the root of addiction? ›

The most common roots of addiction are chronic stress, a history of trauma, mental illness and a family history of addiction. Understanding how these can lead to chronic substance abuse and addiction will help you reduce your risk of becoming addicted.

What are five addictive symptoms? ›

Signs someone else is addicted:
  • Changes in personality and behavior like a lack of motivation, irritability, and agitation.
  • Bloodshot eyes and frequent bloody noses.
  • Shakes, tremors, or slurred speech.
  • Change in their daily routines.
  • Lack of concern for personal hygiene.
  • Unusual need for money; financial problems.

What is the first stage in the cycle of addiction? ›

Stage 1: Initial Use

Regardless of how the initial use occurs, it is the first step toward addiction. Whether or not that initial use is more likely to lead to addiction is often a matter of individual circumstances.

How does substance abuse affect teenagers? ›

Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system.

Which addiction has the highest relapse rate? ›

Research shows that alcohol and opioids have the highest rates of relapse, with some studies indicating a relapse rate for alcohol as high as 80 percent during the first year after treatment. Similarly, some studies suggest a relapse rate for opioids as high as 80 to 95 percent during the first year after treatment.

What are the 4 phases of addiction? ›

There are four levels of addiction: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We will discuss each level in-depth and provide tips for overcoming addiction. Most people who try drugs or engage in risky behaviors don't become addicted.

What are the 7 steps of the cycle of addiction? ›

These seven stages are:
  • Initiation.
  • Experimentation.
  • Regular Usage.
  • Risky Usage.
  • Dependence.
  • Addiction.
  • Crisis/Treatment.

What are 2 risk factors for substance use disorders? ›

For example, risk factors such as poverty and family dysfunction can contribute to the development of mental and/or substance use disorders later in life. Risk and protective factors within one particular context—such as the family—may also influence or be influenced by factors in another context.

What are the six major characteristics of addictive behavior? ›

The addiction components model operationally defines addictive activity as any behavior that features what I believe are the six core components of addiction (i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, and relapse) (Griffiths, 2005).

What are 3 personality traits that are closely related to addiction? ›

No single personality type sets someone up for addiction, but there are a few personality traits common among people who have a substance use disorder: an inability to handle stress, impulsivity, unaccountability and a lack of empathy.

What are three types of addiction behaviors? ›

Types of Addiction
  • Behavioral addiction: Many people associate addiction solely with substances, like alcohol or drugs. ...
  • Substance addiction: Substance addiction creates a physical dependence on a specific chemical. ...
  • Impulse addiction: Impulse control disorders can lead to impulse addiction.

What is the main reason for substance abuse? ›

A person's environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction.

What are the three most common forms of substance abuse? ›

Substances frequently abused include: Alcohol. Marijuana. Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills.

What are three social problems that are caused by substance abuse? ›

Effects of Drug Abuse on Families
  • Family conflict that might include physical and/or mental abuse and neglect.
  • Loss of employment and income.
  • Increased likelihood of emotional and mental disorders (like anxiety and depression) among family members.

What are some examples of addictive behavior? ›

Some of the most common types of behavioral addictions are:
  • Sex.
  • Gambling.
  • Internet.
  • Shopping.
  • Video games.
  • Plastic surgery.
  • Binge eating/food addiction.
  • Thrill-seeking activities.
16 Aug 2021

How does poverty influence substance abuse? ›

Joseph Institute of Addiction says: Poverty increases stress. Stress is well recognized as a risk factor for substance abuse and relapse after treatment. Worrying about how to afford shelter, food, and other basic needs causes a tremendous amount of stress.

What are the seven major complications associated with addiction? ›

Substance use disorders can lead to multiple behavioral problems, both in the short- and long-term, which can include:
  • Paranoia.
  • Aggressiveness.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Addiction.
  • Impaired Judgement.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Loss of Self-Control.

Which addiction has the highest relapse rate? ›

Research shows that alcohol and opioids have the highest rates of relapse, with some studies indicating a relapse rate for alcohol as high as 80 percent during the first year after treatment. Similarly, some studies suggest a relapse rate for opioids as high as 80 to 95 percent during the first year after treatment.

What is the average lifespan of drug users? ›

Depending on the number of times it's used per day, the user could lose between 10-30 years off of their lives. Heroin had the most life lost across the board.

What is at the root of addiction? ›

The most common roots of addiction are chronic stress, a history of trauma, mental illness and a family history of addiction. Understanding how these can lead to chronic substance abuse and addiction will help you reduce your risk of becoming addicted.

What are the four levels of addiction? ›

There are four levels of addiction: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We will discuss each level in-depth and provide tips for overcoming addiction. Most people who try drugs or engage in risky behaviors don't become addicted.

What are the three most common triggers for relapse for substance abuse? ›

What are Common Relapse Triggers?
  • Stress.
  • People or places that were connected to the addiction.
  • Negative or challenging emotions.
  • Seeing or sensing the thing you are addicted to.
1 Dec 2020

What is the fastest growing addiction in America? ›

The fastest-growing drug problem in the United States isn't cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. It is prescription drugs, and it is profoundly affecting the lives of teenagers.

What is the average starting age for drug users? ›

The mean ages at initiation for cocaine and crack cocaine were 18.0 (95% CI, 17.7-18.2) years and 18.0 (95% CI, 17.8-18.2) years, respectively, indicative of initiation in late adolescence or the beginning of young adulthood.

What is the success rate of an addict? ›

Research shows 75% of people with addiction survive and go on to live full lives, especially if they get good treatment.

What percentage of drug users become addicted? ›

About 20% to 30% of people who take prescription Opioids misuse them. About 10% of people who misuse prescription Opioids become addicted to Opioids. Approximately 2.1 million Americans have an Opioid use disorder. About 5% of people with an Opioid use disorder will try Heroin.

What are the five signs of addiction? ›

The psychological signs of drug addiction may include but are not limited to:
  • Anxiousness.
  • Inattentiveness.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Irritability or angry outbursts.
  • Changes in personality or attitude.
  • Emotional and mental withdrawing from people.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • Unexplained paranoia.

What is the most common cause of addiction? ›

Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person's life to affect addiction risk.

What are some examples of addictive behavior? ›

Some of the most common types of behavioral addictions are:
  • Sex.
  • Gambling.
  • Internet.
  • Shopping.
  • Video games.
  • Plastic surgery.
  • Binge eating/food addiction.
  • Thrill-seeking activities.
16 Aug 2021

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