While teenagers and young adults are more likely to experiment with drugs and drinking, the risk for substance abuse does not end with adulthood. According to government data, 9.5% of Americans 26 years and older were regular users of an illicit substance, around 20.2 million adults.
The frequency of substance abuse and misuse fall with age, but not to zero. Older Americans still face many life pressures that may drive them to consider self-medication. The increased personal responsibilities of adulthood can also create stress, which may further lead some to consider drugs or alcohol. No matter the age of you or a loved one, it's important to be conscious of these four causes of substance use disorders in the adult population.
1. Workplace accident
An injury sustained on the job is dangerous for many reasons. At best you or a loved one may miss crucial time that impacts your earning ability short term, at worst it may mean a permanent disability that changes life completely. The mental state following an accident may be one of anguish and despair, the kind that leads to drug use. Another risk factor from accidents is addiction to prescription painkillers. Many are prescribed opioids to recover from an injury, which is a common gateway to abuse given the ongoing opioid crisis.
"Financial strains could lead people to use substances for relief."
2. Financial struggles
In adult life there are mortgages to pay, debt obligations to meet, college tuition to save for and many more expenses. The weight of financial responsibilities can be a heavy burden, especially if struggling to make utility payments or grocery bills. Someone who feels such strain may turn to substances to find some relief from the constant worry. Yet the more that debts rack up, the greater the stress can grow — and consequently the dependence on substances to cope.
3. Poor mental health
Mental health and drug-seeking behavior are inherently connected. Rarely is there an addiction that is not fed in some part by a mental health issue. As far as older Americans are concerned, mid-life crises are a real thing, while grief from a parent's death or stress from marital problems can negatively impact mental well-being. In such states, individuals may turn to substances to feel better or just forget their troubles. Depression can be a significant risk factor for substance misuse.
4. History of misuse
Teenagers grow into adults, meaning if someone used drugs while younger, they may carry that same pattern in adulthood. At the least, a history of substance use will always be there, even if an individual has lived their adult life free from drugs. Access to substances can decrease in adulthood, but not entirely. A parent with relationship problems may be tempted to misuse drugs that were prescribed to their child, for example. Relapse into previous behaviors can become a risk if the pressures and stress of adult life mount.
There myriad causes for substance misuse in the adult population. And each individual deserves a course of treatment that is personalized to them. If you or a loved one need help, contact Fairwinds Treatment Center today.