Older adults have special needs, both physically and psychologically, that require special types of treatment. The detox programs that are generally used in the treatment of teenagers and adults are not quite appropriate for older adults unless those programs have been altered to suit the needs of the population that is aged 55 and over.
The first problem that is typically encountered in the treatment of older adults is simply properly diagnosing the presence of an addiction. One reason this is a problem is because of the way older adults metabolize substances. For example, older adults may become intoxicated after consuming only a small amount of a substance, whereas younger adults might require larger amounts in order to become intoxicated. This is particularly true with alcohol.
Another problem that exists with diagnosing older adults is that some of the signs or symptoms of addiction can easily be confused with symptoms of conditions that are related to the aging process. In an effort to combat these diagnostic problems, researchers are trying to develop new methods for diagnosing older adults.
In order to treat older adults properly, it is necessary for them to receive medical treatment that is more intensive than younger adults require. A greater focus on medical treatment is necessary primarily because the withdrawal symptoms tend to be much more pronounced in the older members of the population. In fact, withdrawal can be a very difficult and dangerous process for older adults because of the severity of the symptoms that they normally experience.
The entire treatment process is very difficult for older adults because of all the changes they must go through in order to be free of their addictions. Not only do they have to admit to having an addiction (which is often quite difficult), they also have to endure psychological counseling, detoxification, and behavior modification. It is usually considerably more difficult for older adults to make changes in their lives than it is for younger people.
When older adults enter a detox program, health care providers might also have to deal with other medical problems that the patient has. In addition to pre-existing health conditions, many older patients also have mental health disorders such as depression or dementia. In fact, many older adults develop substance abuse problems because of the mental health issues they have. This connection is one that is currently being researched, but the association between mental and psychological disorders and substance abuse in older adults is quite significant.
Some substance abuse treatment facilities have developed specialized programs specifically for older adults. These types of treatment programs are geared towards helping these adults with their unique set of problems. They focus on private counseling and behavior modification sessions so that the patients will feel more comfortable than they would in group settings, and they address the presence of any other health issues that the patients have so that a complete treatment plan can be administered.