Elderly people may turn to drugs and alcohol in later life for many reasons. Many changes are brought on when growing older mainly in your lifestyle, health, family obligations, support sources and work roles. It may also bring stress, loneliness, loss of mobility and pain. Older people abuse may often be hidden, misdiagnosed and overlooked since the signs and symptoms of drug dependence and alcoholism are different in older adults than in younger adults.

Elderly and Substance Abuse

Even a small consumption of alcohol may have serious consequences in older adults. Alcohol consumption may also be dangerous by complicating medical conditions or causing them, increasing the risk of falls, depression, confusion, premature mortality and may produce unsafe medication interactions.


Haleema-NoonHalima Noon is currently working at Willing Ways as a clinical psychologist. She has done her MS in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. Her published MS thesis includes current trends of materialistic values and compulsive buying among young adults. She is a Certified Reiki Practitioner from Ijaz Psychiatric Institute. Halima is also an artist by profession. She is an equestrian artist and uses watercolor as her favourite medium.

Editor: Ms. Hameeda Batool


The contributing factors to alcohol use in elderly people may include the changing of life roles such as loss of family or friends, retirement, physical or mental decline. Additional factors that increase vulnerability to alcohol use includes insomnia, drug abuse in family history, and psychiatric illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Men are more at risk of having alcohol problems at a later age than women.

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Types of Elderly Substance Abuser

  1. Those who have managed to live past 65 years of age despite the alcohol or drugs abuse.
  2. Those who only begin this behavior later in life and are also called late onset substance abusers. They turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with life changing circumstances.

The signs that may indicate a drug or drinking problem may include, solitary drinking, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, use of tranquilizers, slurred speech, changes in personal appearance, smell of alcohol on breath, chronic health complaints, depression or hostility, drinking before, with, or after dinner, drinking in spite of warning labels in regards to prescription drugs, confusion and memory loss.