Opiate Addiction Treatment Options for Seniors

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Opiate addiction is a real problem in the elderly population and is sometimes called the ‘invisible epidemic’, as it often goes unnoticed. It is difficult for opiate abusers of all ages to admit they have a problem, and this may be even truer for seniors.  Doctors sometimes overlook substance abuse in the elderly population because the symptoms sometimes mimic those of other behavioral and medical disorders, such as diabetes, dementia, and depression. Opiates may have worse side effects for seniors, including daytime sedation, trouble thinking, trouble with attention and memory, and increased likelihood of dementia.

In some cases treatment for seniors will require an intervention by friends or family members who have identified the problem. The first step in treatment is identifying and assessing the problem, which is followed by detox. Once the problem has been assessed you will have to decide on a treatment plan. Opiate addiction treatment options for seniors include home-based detox and care, inpatient and outpatient treatment, behavioral therapy, and substitution therapy. Addiction is a lifelong struggle, and support, care, and attention are needed to help seniors overcome their opiate addiction.

Monitoring withdrawal

senior opiate addiction

Seniors are known to abuse opiates, too. Group therapies and substitution medications can help.

It is especially important to monitor withdrawal in seniors during the process of opiate addiction treatment. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and others that are experienced when you try to get off of opiates can be very uncomfortable, especially in an individual who’s body is not as able to heal and protect itself as it was during youth. While these symptoms are not life threatening, they are not comfortable and may require medical or psychological attention.

Location and type of treatment

Seniors have some of the same options as others in terms of the type of treatment facility – inpatient or outpatient. There is also the possibility, however, to have in-home care. Some health care and treatment professionals will offer at-home services, especially for individuals with particular difficulty moving around. In other cases, there are outpatient and inpatient care facilities that will provide care to seniors. Inpatient facilities could be more attractive to seniors because they offer housing and meals, and health care professionals are available to help you daily. Outpatient programs do not provide housing, so you would want to find one close to your home and to be sure that you will be able to get there and back for treatment.

Behavioral and cognitive therapy

Behavioral and cognitive therapy is a good method of opiate addiction treatment and is useful for seniors as well. In one-on-one, group, or family sessions led by a counselor, individuals are helped to see what leads them to use opiates and in finding ways to turn their use into positive behavior. Discussing productive lifestyle habits, motivations in life, and other personal and mental things can help seniors overcome an opiate addiction.


Substitution therapy is commonly used in opiate addiction treatment. With this treatment, individuals are prescribed a safer alternative to opiates which they take in a controlled setting. Medications such as methadone, suboxone, and buprenorphine can help seniors deal with opiate cravings and calm some of the symptoms of withdrawal.

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