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How Age Affects Drug Addiction

how age affects drug addiction

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If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our specialists can assess your needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

Drug addiction affects everyone differently. There are several factors that influence someone’s vulnerability to addiction. This article will cover how age affects drug addiction.

In addition to age, things like social environment, family history, and can also affect the likelihood of addiction. Family bonds, education level, and personality also play an important role.

This article will cover the relationship between age and addiction. We’ll also cover how age affects drug addiction in a few different groups. Adults, teenagers, and the elderly all experience addiction in different ways. And, since there’s no rule on when addiction has to occur, it’s helpful to understand them all.

How Age Affects Drug Addiction

Drug addiction usually begins at a young age. People who reach middle school and high school age are looking to gain acceptance. As a result, they may begin to experiment with substances to fit in. The most common “gateway” substances are marijuana and alcohol. From there, users may graduate onto harder drugs. But, there ar a lot of factors that determine this.

Because of this natural progression, we tend to see the highest rates of addiction in teenagers and young adults. However, the opioid crisis is starting to change that. In recent years, we’re starting to see addiction rates rise in adults. This may have to do with adults becoming hooked on prescription medications. This new epidemic of late-life addictions is evident in the elderly population, as well.

The age when addiction starts seems to determine the type of substances used. People who start to struggle with addiction early in life tend to focus more on illegal substances. But, in adults and the elderly, addiction tends to focus more on prescription drug abuse.

Adults and Drug Addiction

When studying addiction, “adults” refers to anybody 25 years of age and older. Drug users in this age group can fall into one of two categories. They can either be early-onset or late-onset drug users.

Late-onset drug users are users who have lived to be over 25 but started using early on in life. Late-onset drug users are just becoming introduced to drug addiction at that 25 and over mark. The early-onset group starts out as we mentioned earlier. They get introduced to consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana at a young age. Usually this takes place before they reach the age of 20.

Late-onset drug users take a much different path. They don’t begin using drugs until after the age of 20. They may start with alcohol and marijuana. But the late-onset age group is more likely to abuse prescription substances.

A study done in 2017 found that 6.4% of people  over 26 had a substance abuse disorder. This includes people in the “elderly” age group. Of these individuals, only 2% used illegal drugs. And an even smaller group, .7%, used illegal opioids like heroin. 0.6% of this group used multiple substances and 1.6% suffered from substance abuse and mental illness at the same time.

Teenagers and Drug Addiction

This is the group hit most by drug addiction. This time period is the time in a person’s life where they’re most likely to encounter substance abuse. The most common substances of choice are cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. In 2017, about 20% of people between the ages of 12 and 20 consumed alcohol at least once. This statistic pertains to teens within the U.S.

Trauma can be an indicator of future substance abuse. People in this age group who experience interpersonal or sexual violence are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues. It’s not uncommon to see anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder along with substance abuse at these ages. This is what’s known as a dual diagnosis.

A teenager’s family environment also plays a big part in their substance abuse risk. If a family member is abusing drugs or alcohol, a teen in the home may be more likely to pick up the habit. The social environment is important, as well. Peer pressure is most prevalent during this time of a person’s life.

Children of this age group feel a lot of pressure to fit in with those around them. They may reach for cigarettes, marijuana, or alcohol as a way of being accepted by their classmates. The effects of peer pressure can be greater if a teen’s home life isn’t good. A child with a strained relationship with parents or guardians at home is more likely to give in to peer pressure.

According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 4% of individuals in this age group had a substance abuse problem in 2017. 2.2% of these individuals used marijuana. Out of the teens suffering from substance abuse, 1.4% had a major depressive episode within the past year. 10% of these teenagers admitted to using alcohol in the month leading up to the survey.

Out of that 10%, 5.5% admitted to binge drinking and 1.8% had an alcohol abuse problem.

How Age Affects Drug Addiction in the Elderly

In the past, the elderly population always had lower substance abuse rates than other age groups. But, that number is slowly beginning to change. Alcohol is the most common substance abused by the elderly. However, prescription drugs aren’t far behind. Studies show that about 37% of the elderly population have at least 5 prescriptions.

The most common prescription drugs abused by the elderly are opioid painkillers and sedatives. The sedatives abused include drugs in the benzodiazepine family.

In this age group, early-onset users start using drugs before age 65. Late-onset users begin using after that number. Late-onset drug use in the elderly population could be a coping mechanism. Oftentimes, people lose a spouse or deal with major life changes like retirement at this age. As a result, they may face isolation from friends and family or suffer from other health conditions.

Somewhere between 2 and 20% of the elderly suffer from alcohol abuse. Widowers age 75 and older are the most likely to abuse alcohol in this age group. 3.4% of adults over 60 abuse opioids. In comparison, 14.9% of the adult population between age 24 and 60 abuse those types of drugs.

Help Is Available

Now we’ve seen how age affects drug addiction. No matter what age you are, it’s never too late to get help. Just Believe Recovery Center is here to help get you back on your feet. Contact us today and we’ll do whatever we can to help you find the recovery program that’s right for you.

No one needs to suffer through addiction alone. Let us help.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our specialists can assess your needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

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