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LEE COUNTY | Increase in substance abuse among seniors after Hurricane Ian

Addiction specialists say alcohol combined with the overuse of prescription painkillers are becoming more prevalent.
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Posted at 4:04 PM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-12 19:06:30-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A growing, nationwide trend is hitting Lee County seniors hard.

Substance abuse disorders have more than tripled in recent years, according to a study published by the National Library of Medicine.

In Lee County, addiction specialists say they’ve noticed an increase in senior citizens suffering from substance abuse since COVID-19 and the destruction from Hurricane Ian.

“After a hurricane, people who have lost their homes, they have financial distress, emotional distress, loss of a loved one,” said Dr. Denise Torres with Lee Health.

“[Patients] have shared a great degree of depression and anxiety, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Lee Health doesn’t break down their numbers by age, but from April of 2022 to March of 2023, they conducted 24,605 visits with patients needing mental health and addiction treatment. They have also completed 3,580 visits at their addiction medicine clinic during the same time period.

“The two greatest substances that are in highest use, number one is alcohol, opioids are the second,” Dr. Torres said.

The problem has been building slowly across the country in recent years.

The rate of fatal overdoses among senior citizens quadrupled from 2002 to 2021, according to a report in JAMA Psychiatry.

Torres says another reason for the increase in substance abuse among seniors is this current population of seniors are made up mostly of the Baby Boomer generation.

“They have much more open aptitudes about elicit use. Their lifetime prevalence of use of elicit marijuana, elicit opioids, and just elicit substances overall is comparatively different than any previous generation,” Torres said.

Some common warning signs are increased falls and decline cognitive abilities.

You can find more resources at Lee Health.