When we hear the term, ‘mid-life crisis’ many think of the image of old guys trying to live out their fantasies of being young, or trading in their older cars for newer, younger ones. But there’s now another twist to the image—substance addiction.

We rarely think of substance addiction and mid-life going together—but America’s middle-aged population is at particular risk. While not everyone weathering a midlife crisis develops substance addiction, the stresses middle-aged people encounter as they get older leave them vulnerable. Particularly if they’ve developed such problems through self-medication and/or over-indulgence, like alcohol, which nowadays is considered socially acceptable.

What is a Mid-Life Crisis?

Mid-life crisis often happens in men and women between the ages of 40 and 60 years. They’re realizing their bodies aren’t what they used to be, experience decreased libidos, and aren’t comfortable with where their lives wound up. Many will discover a crazy sense of fashion, become unsatisfied with their accomplishments, and feel depressed—which can lead to divorce, serious debt, and poor decisions. They feel trapped and need a quick fix to their problems.  Many turn to alcohol and drugs to escape, to cope and to self-medicate. The drugs of choice among this age set are sleeping pills, prescription drugs, alcohol and marijuana. Stress can prompt people in middle age, especially men, to reach for the bottle or pill. Pressures of paying for college while losing equity in your home, or becoming unemployed, or working for less money, are among the stressors present in middle-aged adults’ lives. Women—whose lives can sometimes be tied to their roles as wife and mother—can see their addiction triggered by divorce or the empty-nest syndrome. Close encounters with death, either with a parent, friend or even a health scare, can bring long suppressed fears to the surface.

Middle-Age and Substance Addiction

Statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) found that drug and alcohol abuse in middle-aged men is accelerating. On average, 60,000 men die of alcohol-related issues annually, and more than half of all children live with a parent who has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Overall, 2.3 million Americans over the age of 40 are in need of substance addiction treatment.  Middle-aged adults with substance disorders can encounter several obstacles. Until now, scant thought was given to the fight older Americans have with substance addiction. Despite their numbers increasing, these figures are often under-identified, underdiagnosed and undertreated. Therefore, knowing the facts and figures behind how drug and alcohol addiction can hit this age group can help either you or an aging loved one reduce their risk of morality and seek treatment. These factors can include:

View of Substance Addiction: Adults in mid-life view addiction as a private affair and in many cases think their addiction is shameful, which may lead them to ignore it altogether.

Ageism: A major concern in substance addiction treatment is that many subconsciously think there are different quality of care needs for middle-aged people. In various cases, the school of thought might be that substance addiction among the middle-aged is insignificant compared with younger people with since many might view it as a waste of resources.

Health Concerns: Because of physical and psychological factors, those in mid-life can experience substance addiction much worse than their younger counterparts. Addiction can have a real impact on an older person’s health and may accelerate the normal decline that goes along with aging. Substance addiction can also put this population at risk for other types of illness, not to mention injuries. So, as the toll among those in mid-life continues to mount, it will become harder and harder for those in the addiction treatment community not to notice their needs.

Same Person, Just a Little Older

As a society, we view substance addiction as primarily a problem of the young, but those in middle age are also suffering, and with increased risks compared to their younger counterparts. With states that have—or are considering—marijuana legalization, these actions could be fueling the rise in the numbers of those middle-agers experiencing addiction. Painkillers (opioids) are only second to marijuana as the most preferred way middle-agers get high, according to SAMHSA. In fact, prescription drug rates for middle-aged women is double the rates for middle-aged men with the result that women between 40 and 59 see more deaths from opioid overdosed that any other group. The statistics surrounding substance addiction among the middle-aged are devastating, but even more distressing is the trickle-down effect it has on friends, relatives, neighbors and the community.

It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction so that it’s not misdiagnosed in the middle-aged person as a heart ailment. As the toll of substance addiction continues to take hold of middle-aged folks, it’s important for them to realize they have options and are not doomed to their remaining years being spent in despair and addiction.

Since 2015, well over 30,000 American parents have had to bury a child due to drug overdoses. Everyone suffering from addiction was once a child—it can happen to anyone at any age from any social background. Drugs waste your brain, hijack your soul and, if left untreated, can last a lifetime. Our facility has brought hope and recovery to those who walk through our doors—so that another parent does not have to lose a piece of their heart to addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering, call us now. Stop the slide from addiction into oblivion, because beating drugs and alcohol is a fight worth waging.