If you have concerns about your own drug or alcohol use, or such use by another, you will find information on this site that will, hopefully, help you.

First, here is a short explanation that may aid you in deciding whether you (or someone you care about) need help for a problem with drugs or alcohol: Does your use cause significant problems in important areas of your life (legal problems, relationship problems, problems involving your work, or medical problems), have you become aware of the adverse consequences of your use in one or more of these areas, and are you continuing to use drugs or alcohol anyway. In other words, have you continued to use drugs or alcohol in the face of a pattern of adverse consequences traceable to that use?

  Seniors and Drug or Alcohol Use

For this discussion, the terms “seniors” or “elderly” refer to individuals 60 years of age or older. However, bear in mind that some of the adverse effects of drugs or alcohol that begin to manifest with increasing age, can do so at age 50 or younger.

The information here applies generally to seniors’ use of alcohol and drugs, particularly, drugs prescribed by doctors for sedation and pain relief, for example, anxiety reducing drugs (benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan) and sleeping pills, (like Ambien, Lunesta, and some antidepressants), and pain killers (opiates, like oxycodone, Oxycontin, codeine, Tramadol, Demerol),and, of course, to “recreational” or street drugs (like heroin, oxycontin, anxiety and sleeping pills, and marijuana).  The same changes with age apply generally to stimulant drugs (uppers), like amphetamines (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta), cocaine, meth).

As humans age, their bodies become less efficient in many aspects, especially in regard to toleration of alcohol or other drugs. 

Aging lessens the ability of seniors to tolerate (ability to “hold” your liquor or handle drugs) alcohol or drugs, resulting in dangers of overdose, disabling intoxication, with susceptibility to injury from falls, and inability to safely perform routine tasks (driving, walking). Chronic use of alcohol and other drugs can, in some cases cause, and worsen many of the common physical and medical issues normally associated with advancing age, including, memory problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and stroke problems, liver and kidney problems, osteoporosis, mental health (depression, anxiety, insomnia), dehydration, and, of course, alcohol and drug use disorders (addiction).

Here is a resource for a good summary of basic information about the reasons for the need for seniors to be cautious about drug or alcohol use put together by the National Council for Aging Care: http://www.aging.com.


Published by Jan Williams

Professional in the addiction field in the State of Maryland for 35 years. Held positions as Program Coordinator at the Addiction Unit at Sheppard Pratt Hospital, Director of Treatment at three inpatient treatment programs, and Director of the Alcohol and Drug Education and Support Services Department at Loyola University. Worked at Loyola for 24 years, retiring in 2014. In long term recovery (42 years).

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