How do we solve the drug epidemic

Addiction in old age - "There is a hidden drug epidemic among the elderly"

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The latest UN drug report speaks of a hidden drug epidemic among the older generations. This problem also exists in Switzerland, especially with drugs and alcohol, says psychologist and drug therapy expert Sabin Bührer.

In order to help, it is important not to look the other way if you - as a family member - suspect possible abuse.

SRF News: How big is the problem of drug addiction among older people in Switzerland?

Sabin Bührer: In Switzerland, too, one has to speak of a hidden drug epidemic among older people. Along with sexuality, addiction is the most widespread taboo in old age. Because the problem is not discussed, it is not recognized and there is no treatment. We know that drugs, alcohol and tobacco are a big issue, especially with older people, and that problematic consumption is also practiced.

Older people often take sleep and pain medication prescribed by their family doctor. Are they also victims of their doctors?

One thing is certain: For a long time, the prevailing opinion was that older people shouldn't have to worry too much about drug dependency. That has changed a lot in the last few years.

Doctors have become much more reluctant to prescribe medication.

Meanwhile, doctors who work with the elderly have become much more reluctant to prescribe medication. It is now prescribed in a much more differentiated and careful manner than it used to be.

Why do older people still take more prescription drugs?

In old age, physical complaints increase, productivity decreases, death and the finiteness of life become an issue. The social network is also often reduced in size, and experiences of loss arise when acquaintances die.

Reaching for medication or alcohol as a problem solver.

The loneliness increases. From the perspective of those affected, taking medication or alcohol is a possible strategy for solving these problems. And because there are many more older people living today than in the past, there are also more older people with addiction problems.

Sleep problems, chronic pain: when does taking medication become an addiction?

Defining that is one of the very difficult sticking points. There are no standardized guidelines as to when, for example, one should speak of an addiction when taking pain medication. It is correspondingly challenging to recognize that. In addition, there is the taboo that drugs and alcohol can be a problem in old age.

It is taboo that drugs and alcohol can be a problem in old age.

Everything that is taboo is always associated with shame. That means: those affected do not address the topic and also relatives or close people do not - even if they notice something. It is important to pay close attention to when unwanted side effects occur - such as insecurity in everyday life, falls or the like. This can indicate a possible drug and / or alcohol dependence in old age.

What can be done about the hidden drug epidemic among the elderly?

Look, speak to, ask and offer support: these are the four important keywords. This helps to remove taboos, so you can enter into a dialogue with those affected or relatives.

Take a look, speak to them, ask questions and offer support.

Because: Treatments for addictions in old age are at least as successful as those for younger people. So it's worth doing something and getting help.

The interview was conducted by Claudia Weber.

Do you need help with addiction issues?

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Dependence on certain substances - drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs - is a disease that can be treated. On the following list you will find a small selection of institutions where you can get help quickly.

SRF 4 News from March 26, 2021, 7:20 am; srf / snep; rehm

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  • Comment from Walter Matzler (wmatz)
    I've known a person who wasn't doing very well. The doctor has prescribed medication for her, but the person has felt worse. Therefore, she received more medication and was even worse. Finally she put a stop to it: No more visits to the doctor and no more medication and the person is now fine again.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Beat Degen (Haudegen)
    According to my partner, who works with addicts, there are very clearly defined diagnostic criteria according to ICD10 when there is a dependency ("addiction").
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Beppie Hermann (A right green)
    Medis are especially bad for previously old people who often take several of them, the interaction of which is often not taken into account or has not yet been clarified. They suppress the body's own messenger substances and functions such as the immune system, mechanisms against cell growth, defense against pain, happiness hormones, cortisone production and much more. What the body is capable of, I experience, 75, since 34 years without medis, but balanced, biological nutrition, an active and sporty lifestyle. Never been sick again, not even a cold.
    Agree agree to the comment

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