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3 Risk Factors for Developing Addiction Later in Life

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No matter what your age, there are factors that increase your chances of developing addiction at some point in your life. Those include genetic predisposition, mental health issues, early exposure to drugs and alcohol, and environmental factors, such as whether people around use use drugs or alcohol. Older people typically have some protective factors that younger people lack. For example, your brain isn’t fully developed until you are about 25, which makes self-control and foresight more difficult for younger people. People also tend to get more conscientious as they get older, which correlates with less substance use. However, older people may also have some additional risk factors that younger people don’t, including the following.

Major life changes

Every stage of life has its own challenges. When you’re young, you have to move out of the house, go to college, get a job, and so on, and many of these challenges are confusing and difficult. When you’re older, those challenges look different and may be even more disruptive if you’ve been used to living a certain way for a long time. Retirement is a major challenge for many people because they suddenly feel like they no longer have a purpose, which may lead to boredom and depression. Menopause is another major life change, compounded by major hormonal changes, which have been found to increase risk of depression. Older people may have less contact with their children as they go to college, get careers, and perhaps move farther away. These adjustments can be challenging and it’s normal to feel a bit lost. Sometimes substance use, typically drinking, is a way avoiding dealing with the emotions associated with these changes.


Unfortunately, the older you get, the more frequently the people around you die. It’s hard to lose people close to you, whether they’re friends or relatives. The loss of a spouse or partner is especially difficult. It’s hard to adjust to losing someone who has been part of your life for decades. Surviving partners often get depressed and start drinking heavily. It’s possible that the normal grief following a loss can turn into addiction.

Chronic conditions

As people get older, they tend to have more health problems. Chronic conditions increase your addiction risk in several ways. First, chronic conditions, especially pain, are among the few factors that actually lower your happiness setpoint and may lead to depression. Inflammatory conditions may also cause depression, which is a major risk factor for addiction. Perhaps most importantly, chronic conditions are typically managed with medications, which may include addictive opioid painkillers. Many older adults have lived their whole lives with no substance use issues only to develop a dependence on opioids following a medical procedure or to treat chronic pain.

Arbor Behavioral Healthcare offers an integrative and holistic approach to treat substance abuse and a wide variety of addictions, as well as underlying mental health and psychological issues. All of the addiction recovery programs offered by The Arbor are designed to heal the mind, body, and spirit leading to a lifetime of sobriety, health and wellness. If you’re ready to find healing and restoration in a peaceful, loving environment, please call us today at 844-560-7269.