New Generation Gap as Older Addicts Seek Help

New Generation Gap as Older Addicts Seek Help

Published: March 6, 2008 – NY Times
Across the country, substance abuse centers are reaching out to older addicts who have historically been ignored.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — All is peaceful and orderly on the older adult
unit at Hanley Center, where substance abusers over the age of 55 are
spared the noisy swagger of addicts half their age across the campus.

In their separate oasis, alcoholics and prescription drug abusers of
a certain age do not curse at one another, raise their voices in anger
or blast music at midnight. They don’t brag about their macho pasts or
stage drama-queen breakups on the communal pay phone. They show up on
time for therapy groups.

“We have different health issues,
different emotional issues, different grief issues,” said Patrick
Gallagher, 66, who was treated here for a dual addiction to pain
medication and alcohol. “We need more peace and quiet and a different
pace.”

Across the country, substance abuse centers are reaching
out to older addicts whose numbers are growing and who have
historically been ignored. There are now residential and outpatient
clinics dedicated to those over 50, special counselors just for them at
clinics that serve all ages, and screenings at centers for older
Americans and physicians’ offices to identify older people unaware of
their risk.  continue reading article