Substance abuse can be a real problem for those who have reached retirement age. One study in the UK found that as much as 5% of people at this age could be described as problem drinkers. There are also many retired individuals who will abuse prescription medications or illegal drugs. Even those people who have always been able to drink socially can develop an alcohol problem in retirement. For many individuals their retirement is a time for enjoying fewer responsibilities and doing those things they always put off. Substance abuse can rob the individual of the potential available in this special time. It has even been suggested that substance abuse in retirement is a hidden epidemic.
There are a number of reasons for substance abuse in retirement including:
* The individual may struggle to adjust to their new life. They return to alcohol or drugs for solace.
* They feel bored and use substance abuse as a way to escape this.
* They are attempting to escape feelings of loneliness and loss of purpose.
* The individual can feel that they have earned the right to go a bit wild. They have worked hard for many years, and this is their reward for that.
* There can be a fear of getting old.
* People can turn to substance abuse because of grief after a loved one has died.
* Some individuals may experience reduced cognitive functioning, and this makes it harder for them to control their drinking.
* Those who have reached retirement age may find that they have increasing health concerns. They may turn to substance abuse in order to escape these worries.
* For some people retirement can mean increased financial concerns. Alcohol and drugs can be used to get away from these problems.
Substance abuse in retirement can be particularly dangerous because:
* Alcohol or drugs can cause far more physical and mental damage with people who are older. This is because their body is less able to deal with the toxic effects of these substances.
* The retired person may have fewer responsibilities to hold them back in substance abuse. This may mean that they use alcohol or drugs a great deal more than if they still had to go to work every day or take care of family.
* It is usually easier for retired people to hide their addiction; especially those who live alone with family who have moved away.
* There can be an attitude among family and friends that the retired individual has somehow earned the right to let their hair down. They condone the substance abuse because they believe that this individual has worked hard for many years so can now enjoy being irresponsible.
* Retirement can be aly satisfying period in a person’s life. If they turn to substance abuse they will miss out on this special time.
There is a risk that those who are recovering from an addiction will relapse in retirement. This is because the change in circumstances can cause a great deal of upset. People are always more likely to relapse when they are going through a period of great change. Relapsing in retirement can be particularly dangerous because:
* Work and responsibilities may have kept the individual from hitting a low bottom in their addiction. In retirement they will have far less holding them back so they may sink lower than they did during their last outing with substance abuse.
* As people get older they are less able to physically tolerate alcohol and drugs. If they relapse their appetite may soon return to former levels, but they will be doing a great deal more damage because of their weakened tolerance.
* People who relapse in retirement may feel that stopping the substance abuse again might not be worth it. This is because they are pessimistic about how much they can do with the rest of their life.
* Many individuals who relapse in retirement deteriorate quickly. It is not uncommon for these people to return to alcohol or drug abuse and be found dead in a matter of weeks.
Those individuals who have never had any problems with alcohol should be able to continue to enjoy this pleasure in retirement. It is recommended that they try to stick to the safe recommended levels of alcohol intake so as to avoid any problems. This means that those who are aged over 65 years of age should stick to one drink per day. Men who are under 65 years of age are allowed 2 drinks per day and women under 65 are allowed 1 drink per day. Those individuals who have ever been treated for alcoholism should avoid drinking altogether.
Boredom can be a real danger for people who are retired. This is a common reason for why people of all ages turn to substance abuse. It allows them to temporarily escape the tedium and monotony of their life. The downside of this is that it ends up swallowing up all of the individual’s time. Boredom occurs when people have a lack of meaningful things to do. It means that the individual does not have enough interests in their life. This is something that can easily be remedied without the need to resort to chemical numbness. All that people need to do is find activities that appeal to them and become involved with these.
Those individuals who enter recovery in retirement will benefit greatly. It will mean that they will have a great many more opportunities during this period of their life. It is also likely to mean that they will live longer and maintain their health for longer. One of the great things about sobriety is that it gives people a second chance in life. It is never really too late for second chances. Some individuals may find that they are able to stop the substance abuse without any help. For other people it may be wise to get help from the professionals. Spending a bit of time in rehab can allow the individual to gain the skills they need to build a successful life in sobriety. This can be particularly important for those people who have been abusing alcohol or drugs for many years.
Retirement can mean entering a golden age for many individuals. These people now have the time to do those things that they’ve always wanted to do. In order to get the most from retirement the individual can:
* Just because people have retired does not mean that they need to completely cut themselves off from the world of work. For example, retired ex-business owners may enjoy working as mentors for people who are just starting out.
* Retirement means a new way of living and it can take a bit of getting used to. Once people have settled into this new life it becomes their normal.
* Some people complain in the beginning that retirement is boring. Once they settle into things though, they usually complain that there is not enough hours in the day to do all the things they want to do.
* If people sit back and wait for interesting things to happen to them they are likely to end up disappointed. The trick is to get out there and find the interesting things to do.
* Retirement is a great time to revisit old hobbies and find new ones. People should not be afraid to experiment and should definitely not be put off by new technology.
* They say that variety is the spice of life. It is probably best to have a number of hobbies rather than just focusing on one.
* It is good if people have at least one physical activity in their life. This will help them keep physically in good shape and promote health.
* Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can be good activities to take up in retirement. They may even help to maintain cognitive functioning.
* It is important for people in retirement to keep challenging their minds – you either use it or lose it. This stimulation for the brain can be done by simple things like completing a daily crossword.
* Loneliness can make life in retirement highly unsatisfying. It is often necessary for people to be proactive in their attempts at escaping loneliness – sitting at home alone is not going to be a remedy for this.
* It is good to enjoy memories from the past, but it is also important to take an interest in what is happening now. One of the secrets of those who live to be older than a 100 seems to be their love for life – they are not always reminiscing about the past.