Parent Alert | December 2020 Promoting Health in Older Adults Substance Use and Safety



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Parent Alert | December 2020
Promoting Health in Older Adults

Substance Use and Safety


Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) are more common than we may realize. While young people are more likely to misuse substances, older people can struggle with this disease as well, with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) being the most prevalent.

In fact, according to a recent study, 13.4% of older adults have had a long history of AUD. Prescription medications, if not used per a doctor’s instructions, can pose a problem as well. Unfortunately, SUD is a taboo topic in many households, but there is no shame in needing help. What can you do to keep you and your loved ones safe?

Substance Misuse
Watch for these warning signs of substance misuse in older adults:

  • Memory problems
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Irritability, sadness, depression
  • Unexplained chronic pain
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Wanting to be alone often
  • Failing to bathe or keep clean
  • Losing touch with loved ones
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
If you or someone you know is showing the above symptoms, encourage them to seek professional help using the links below. Call 911 if they are suicidal.

Resources for Getting Help:

The following can increase the likelihood of SUD
(known as risk factors):

  • Involuntary retirement
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Relocating
  • Physical health issues
  • Previous traumatic events
  • Mental health disorders
  • Social changes or economic stressors
  • Lifetime or family history of SUD
  • High availability of substances

The following can lower the likelihood of SUD
(known as protective factors):

  • Resiliency
  • Marriage or committed relationship
  • Supportive family relationships
  • Voluntary retirement
  • Ability to live independently
  • Positive self-image
  • Well-managed medical care and proper use of medications
  • Sense of identity and purpose
  • Supportive networks and social bonds

Secure & Dispose Safely


Store your prescription medications out of sight and out of reach from children and youth. Surprisingly, about 50% of adolescents begin to self-medicate as early as age 11, and many of them start by swiping family members’ medications.

It’s ideal to store your medications in a locked cabinet. If you don’t have a locked cabinet, consider out-of-the-way spaces like in your nightstand, under your bed, or in your closet. Keeping them in the bathroom may not be wise, since children and youth may access them while unsupervised.

Show you care. Don’t share.

  • Black out personal information before throwing away the bottle
  • Participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day twice a year
  • Use your local prescription dropboxes in the lobbies of most Police Departments in Wayne County. (Wooster’s dropbox is in the lobby of the Justice Center.)
  • Order Deterra deactivation pouches online or purchase at select drug stores
  • If the above aren’t options, mix medications with cat litter or used coffee grounds before throwing in trash
Another way to keep your loved one safe is to ask a prescribing physician questions about their medications:
What are the side effects of this medicine?
Is this drug addictive?
How might this medicine interact with my other medicines?
Are there alternatives to this medicine I could consider?
What warning signs of adverse reactions should I watch for?
If a child or pet swallows a medication, call:
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
Animal Poison Control: 1-888-426-4435
The information in this Parent Alert came from:

For more information, click on the following links:

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