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Prescription Substance Abuse in Nevada’s Elderly Population

Home » Addiction Recovery » Prescription Substance Abuse in Nevada’s Elderly Population
The Rise of Prescription Drug Abuse in Nevadas Elderly Population

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Prescription drug abuse among Nevada’s elderly is a growing concern with significant health risks.
  • Understanding the factors contributing to this issue is essential for prevention and treatment.
  • Recognizing signs of abuse and knowing treatment options can help protect elderly loved ones.



Prescription drug abuse is often seen as a problem for younger people, but it’s increasingly affecting the elderly, especially in Nevada. This growing issue poses unique challenges and risks. Understanding why this is happening and what can be done about it is crucial for the health and well-being of our older population.

How Common is Substance Abuse in the Elderly?

Substance abuse is becoming increasingly common among the elderly, affecting about 1 million older adults in the United States. This issue is expected to grow as the baby boomer generation ages. Many older adults misuse alcohol, prescription medications, and illicit drugs, often as a way to cope with chronic pain, mental health issues, or the stress of aging. The growing prevalence of substance abuse in this age group highlights the need for targeted prevention and treatment programs.

Alcohol Misuse Among the Elderly

Alcohol misuse among the elderly is a significant and growing concern, with nearly 3 million older adults in the United States engaging in unhealthy drinking behaviors. As people age, their bodies process alcohol differently, increasing the risk of health complications. Many older adults turn to alcohol to cope with loneliness, loss, and other life changes, which can exacerbate existing health problems. This trend underscores the importance of awareness, prevention, and specialized treatment programs for older adults.

Commonly Abused Drugs in Nevada

Commonly abused drugs in Nevada include methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription opioids. Methamphetamine is widely used due to its availability and highly addictive nature, leading to significant health and social issues. Heroin abuse remains prevalent, often linked to the misuse of prescription opioids. Additionally, prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone are frequently abused, contributing to the state’s ongoing opioid crisis. Marijuana and cocaine are also commonly used, reflecting broader national trends in substance abuse.

Factors Contributing to Prescription Drug Abuse in the Elderly

Increased Prescriptions for Chronic Pain and Other Conditions

As people age, they often face chronic pain, sleep disorders, and anxiety. Doctors frequently prescribe medications to manage these conditions. Unfortunately, these prescriptions can sometimes lead to dependence and abuse, especially when taken long-term.

Lack of Awareness About Addiction Risks

Many elderly individuals and their caregivers might not be fully aware of the addiction risks associated with prescription drugs. They may believe that because a doctor prescribed the medication, it’s entirely safe. This misunderstanding can lead to misuse and dependence.

Social Isolation and Mental Health Issues

Social isolation, depression, and anxiety are common among the elderly. These conditions can drive some to misuse their medications in an attempt to cope. The lack of social interaction and support can exacerbate this problem, making it harder to notice and address.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs


Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain management but are highly addictive. Drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone are often abused, leading to significant health risks.


Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, are prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. They can be highly addictive and are often misused, especially by those who have been on these medications for an extended period.

Sleep Medications

Medications like Ambien and Lunesta are used to treat sleep disorders. While they can be effective for short-term use, long-term use can lead to dependency and abuse.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse in the Elderly

Behavioral Changes

Look for changes in behavior, such as increased secrecy, withdrawal from social activities, or sudden mood swings. These can be indicators of substance abuse.

Physical Symptoms

Physical signs might include dizziness, confusion, unsteady walking, and frequent falls. These symptoms can often be mistaken for normal aging, but they may be signs of drug abuse.

Impact on Daily Life

Noticeable impacts on daily life, such as neglecting personal hygiene, missing appointments, or having trouble managing daily tasks, can signal a problem with prescription drugs.

Consequences of Prescription Drug Abuse

Health Risks and Complications

Abusing prescription drugs can lead to severe health complications, including respiratory issues, heart problems, and cognitive decline. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to these risks due to preexisting health conditions.

Increased Risk of Accidents and Falls

Drug abuse can impair coordination and balance, significantly increasing the risk of accidents and falls. For the elderly, such incidents can be life-threatening.

Financial and Legal Issues

Prescription drug abuse can lead to financial strain due to the cost of acquiring medications illegally. Legal issues can also arise if individuals attempt to obtain multiple prescriptions fraudulently.

Treatment and Support Options

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are available to help elderly individuals recover from prescription drug abuse. Inpatient programs offer intensive care, while outpatient programs provide flexible support for those who can manage daily living independently.

Counseling and Therapy Options

Counseling and therapy are crucial for addressing the underlying issues that contribute to substance abuse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic approaches can be highly effective.

Support Groups and Community Resources

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide a community of peers who understand the challenges of overcoming substance abuse. Community resources and senior centers can also offer support and activities to help keep the elderly engaged and healthy.

Services Available at Virtue Recovery Las Vegas

Virtue Recovery Las Vegas offers comprehensive treatment options tailored to the needs of the elderly. Our programs include medical detox, counseling, therapy, and aftercare planning to support long-term recovery. Call us at 866-520-2861 to learn more.

Preventative Measures and Education

Educating Patients and Caregivers

Education is key to preventing prescription drug abuse. Both patients and caregivers should be informed about the risks of addiction and the importance of following the prescribed dosages.

Regular Monitoring and Follow-Ups

Regular check-ups and monitoring can help catch signs of abuse early. Doctors should frequently review the necessity of continued medication and adjust as needed.

Safe Medication Practices

Encouraging safe medication practices, such as using a single pharmacy for all prescriptions and keeping track of medications, can reduce the risk of misuse. Secure storage of medications is also essential to prevent unauthorized access.


The rise of prescription drug abuse among Nevada’s elderly population is a serious concern that needs attention. By understanding the factors contributing to this issue, recognizing the signs, and knowing the available treatment options, we can help protect our loved ones. If you or someone you love is struggling with prescription drug abuse, call Virtue Recovery Las Vegas at 866-520-2861 for help and support.


What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs among the elderly?

The most commonly abused prescription drugs among the elderly include opioids (like oxycodone and hydrocodone), benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax), and sleep medications (like Ambien and Lunesta).

How can I recognize signs of prescription drug abuse in an elderly loved one?

Look for behavioral changes (such as increased secrecy and mood swings), physical symptoms (like dizziness and unsteady walking), and impacts on daily life (such as neglecting personal hygiene and missing appointments).

What treatment options are available for elderly individuals with prescription drug abuse issues?

Treatment options include inpatient and outpatient programs, counseling and therapy, support groups, and community resources. Virtue Recovery Las Vegas offers comprehensive treatment tailored to the needs of the elderly.

How can prescription drug abuse in the elderly be prevented?

Prevention includes educating patients and caregivers about addiction risks, regular monitoring and follow-ups, and promoting safe medication practices, such as secure storage and using a single pharmacy.

Where can I find help for prescription drug abuse in the elderly in Las Vegas?

Virtue Recovery Las Vegas provides a range of treatment options and support services for elderly individuals struggling with prescription drug abuse. Call 866-520-2861 for assistance.

How many older adults over 65 are affected by substance abuse?

Substance abuse affects approximately 1 million older adults aged 65 and older in the United States. This number is expected to rise as the population ages and more individuals from the baby boomer generation reach older adulthood.

Why drug abuse in those aged 65 and older is a high-risk group?

Drug abuse in those aged 65 and older is considered high-risk because they often have multiple health problems that can be exacerbated by substance use. Additionally, older adults are more likely to experience adverse drug interactions, increased sensitivity to substances, and higher rates of mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

What percentage of people aged 65 and older in the United States take at least five prescription medicines daily?

In the United States, approximately 39% of people aged 65 and older take at least five prescription medicines daily. This polypharmacy increases the risk of drug interactions and complications related to substance use.





author avatar
Nicki Lugo, CPC, LAC, LCADC, CCTS Executive Director
Nicki Lugo is currently employed as Clinical Director at Virtue Recovery Center in Las Vegas. Nicki is a licensed clinical professional counselor (CPC) in the state of Nevada and a licensed associate counselor (LAC) in the state of Arizona. She is also a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor (LCADC) in Nevada. Additionally, Nicki has specialized training in treating trauma and is a certified clinical trauma specialist (CCTS). Nicki has earned a Master of Science degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Behavioral Health from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Science in Professional Counseling from Grand Canyon University. Currently, Nicki is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling Education and Supervision at Grand Canyon University. Nicki’s research interests include the use of Positive Psychology interventions with dual diagnosis clients. Nicki hopes to contribute to the body of knowledge in treating substance use disorders. Nicki’s long-term career goals include advancing in leadership roles within Virtue Recovery Center which is a quickly growing substance use disorder treatment facility. She hopes that one day her research and advocacy will help to save the lives of those who have been affected by substance use. She likes to say that advocacy is her passion and leadership is her superpower.

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