Dual diagnosis: An ‘invisible’ crisis rampant among senior citizens - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
05-05-17 Category: Dual Diagnosis

Adeline (name changed), a 65-year-old living in the Arlington Heights neighborhood in Central Los Angeles often complained of weariness and fatigue which were the result of daily bouts of depression she faced. A short ascent to her apartment on the first floor would leave her gasping for breath and she found it impossible to carry out her daily tasks.

The sudden and unexpected death of her husband two years ago caused unbearable grief to Adeline which soon made way for regular panic attacks and further aggravated her migraine problem. As fear, loneliness and boredom started to creep in, the large, cozy and once lively house started to feel hostile and unwelcoming. She felt like life was all about wallowing in perpetual dreariness. To make matters worse, short-term memory pushed her away from many chores, which she loved to do at one point in time. The only thought which ran wild in her mind was, “now what?”

Adeline’s doctor initially put her on a painkiller regimen involving Percocet and Demerol to alleviate the pain and discomfort experienced from frequent migraine headaches. But, the pills made her feel even more withdrawn and anxious. Although it provided the much-needed relief, she ended up developing a greater level of tolerance to the pills. Now hooked on to those pills, embarking on a doctor shopping spree was the only option left for her to satisfy her urges.

Adeline needed the high to alter her mood or else she would be sucked into this dark abyss of troublesome thoughts. With her silvery-grey locks, soft-mellowish voice and sweet demeanor, she never looked like someone who could be addicted to prescription drugs. Adeline was helplessly battling depression and addiction to opioids, which further aggravated her mental condition.

Adeline is one of the thousands of elderly Americans struggling with dual diagnosis. According to a 2015 report, seniors are most likely to become addicted to alcohol or prescription drugs if they suffer from depression, stress or chronic pain. With the advancing years and a diminishing social circle, coping with physical as well as emotional pain is the primary motive, which compels many seniors to view drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about 2.5 million older adults in the U.S. have an alcohol or drug problem. Falling prey to an addiction as the years roll by is not uncommon but the impact of such an addiction in individuals over the age of 65 can be far more detrimental than in the case of younger adults. The reason being the elderly are more vulnerable to the devastating effects of drugs or alcohol. Such people not only have a reduced ability to metabolize drugs or alcohol but also a heightened brain sensitivity to resulting effects.

Treatment is key to help seniors fight dual disorders

Dealing with strong urges for alcohol or illicit substances has always been a daunting task. Moreover, things can get further complicated if someone is struggling with mental health problems like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. In other words, battling co-occurring disorders can pose an enormous challenge.

Prescription drug abuse and alcoholism are greater causes of concern for seniors than abuse of hard street drugs like heroin or cocaine. Multiple factors such as health problems or life-changing events that claim an emotional toll may contribute to a senior person turning to substance abuse at some stage in life. Above all, with age, the body of a senior citizen processes drugs and alcohol differently as compared to a young individual. Generally, tolerance levels to stimulants and intoxicants drop drastically and the harmful substances continue to remain in the system for longer periods of time.

Dual diagnosis calls for a comprehensive approach to treatment, which can identify and evaluate each disorder concurrently. Thus, it becomes imperative for a patient seeking psychiatric illnesses to get screened for substance use disorders and vice versa. Since an accurate diagnosis is complicated, it may be necessary to observe patients after a period of abstinence in order to distinguish between withdrawal symptoms and those related to comorbid mental disorders. In a rehab center, an elderly patient can undergo the following four phases of treatment:

  • Evaluation and assessment: It helps the patient and his family to create a foundation for treatment and to determine what type of treatment is most appropriate.
  • Detoxification: It involves safe management of withdrawal from alcohol and drugs.
  • Rehabilitation: It is the primary phase of treatment that includes assessment and implementation of a personalized treatment plan such as individual or family therapy.
  • Continuing care: It offers a continuous, comprehensive support to patients after discharge.

Sovereign Health can help

The hand-in-glove association between mental illness and addiction is not unfamiliar. On the surface, they might appear very distinct but in reality they feed on each other and often victims find themselves sucked into the whirlpool of dual diagnosis without any clue of what is happening. A careful assessment is needed to establish the existence of both disorders but it might be difficult because the symptoms of one disorder can mimic another’s. The need of the hour is regular care from trained physicians and customized therapies to help a comorbid patient avail the benefits of top dual diagnosis treatment centers in California.

Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized dual diagnosis treatment options at its residential treatment centers to treat the person holistically. These programs are specifically designed to help addicts recover from the dual conditions through integrated interventions after a rigorous examination of the underlying health conditions. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.

If you or your loved one is suffering from dual diagnosis, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. For more information on dual diagnosis or the best dual diagnosis treatment options closest to the Los Angeles area, get in touch with us. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the causes of dual diagnosis and most effective dual diagnosis treatment programs in the vicinity of Los Angeles. We have facilities in all major places in the country. Our dual diagnosis residential treatment centers in California are among the best in the nation.

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