Dual Diagnosis in Older Adults: Are They More Likely to Have It?

When a person struggles with a mental health disorder and a substance abuse issue, medical professionals refer to them as dual-diagnosis patients. Today, many patients in this category are older individuals. It is important to know when a person has a dual diagnosis, as both conditions must be treated to ensure the highest quality of life for this person.

Dual Diagnosis Implication in Seniors

A person struggling with a mental health issue is at higher risk of self-harm or suicide. When they also have a substance abuse disorder, the risk increases even more. Medical professionals must take this increased risk into account when treating older adults. Sadly, suicide rates for individuals between the ages of 45 and 64 are double that of the suicide rates for men and women between the ages of 15 and 24, a time when people are becoming more independent and trying to find their way in the world.

When a depressed individual abuses alcohol, they are at greater risk of self-harming or committing suicide than alcoholics with no other medical conditions. The alcohol lowers the person’s inhibitions and their impulse control. Further, alcohol is a depressant. Men and women who are already suffering from clinical depression find alcohol makes their symptoms worse. However, alcohol is only one drug medical experts need to be concerned about when it comes to dual-diagnosis patients. The individual might also misuse other substances and put themselves at higher risk of suicide or self-harm. They need the help of a facility specializing in dual diagnosis in Los Angeles.

Why Are Older Adults at Higher Risk of Having a Dual Diagnosis?

As a person ages, their risk of a substance abuse disorder also increases. Retirement is a time when people are supposed to enjoy life. However, many individuals find that as they get older, they lose loved ones more often. They have free time on their hands but don’t know how to fill it and they might feel lonely, even when surrounded by other people.

Physical issues can also contribute to mental health issues, As a person’s mobility decreases, they begin to lose some of their independence and must rely on others. This can have a negative effect on their self-esteem. To cope with these issues, the senior might turn to drugs and alcohol.

Furthermore, to treat these physical issues, doctors might prescribe medications that can lead to addiction. Most people think of opioids when they think of prescription medications that a person can become dependent on. However, a person might also become dependent on anti-depressants and sedatives, and many seniors take these medications.

Also read: How Do I Know If I Have A Mental Health Illness?

Treating Older Adults with a Dual Diagnosis

A person can get help with their dual diagnosis, regardless of their age. The prognosis is good for men and women who receive appropriate treatment, and the results are often better than those seen with younger individuals. Most people benefit from an inpatient program, as they can receive medical care for withdrawal symptoms, which tend to be worse the older a person gets.

Once the detox process is complete, the focus turns to relapse prevention. The therapies used with younger individuals might not be appropriate with older adults. Staff members may need to modify them for the best results.

Many older adults are able to receive successful treatment for both this mental health issue and their substance abuse disorder, going on to live a sober life once again. While the mental health treatment may need to be ongoing, they live a higher quality of life. Anyone who suspects they have a mental health issue, a substance abuse disorder, or both should seek treatment today. Help is available for those who ask.