Senior addiction problems growing fast

Rotarian Neil Deppe presents Don Chatfield with a certificate of appreciation.

Rotarian Neil Deppe presents Don Chatfield with a certificate of appreciation.

Bob Allen

Speaking to the SaddleBrooke Rotary Club on August 14, 2014, Addiction Therapist Don Chatfield, Ph.D., M.A., said people over 60 represent the fastest growing segment of the population with addictive problems. Chatfield’s PhD dissertation was based on research of addictions of people over 60.

Chatfield, a therapist at Desert Star Addiction Services, 7493 North Oracle Road, says alcohol, prescription drug, eating disorders and sexual/porn addiction problems now affect up to 17% of people over 60. Of that segment, about 15% of men and 12% of women regularly drink in excess of recommended limits. Other addictions include prescription drugs and, usually in men, sex. According to Chatfield many seniors are reluctant to seek help. Impediments include children who don’t want to deal with the problem and shame. And some seniors see drinking as a simple pleasure they earned in their later years. Yet drug and alcohol abuse often accelerate physical decline. For non-medicinal solutions to drug addiction, offers services that could aid those on their road to recovery.

Sex addiction is also a problem with a smaller segment in this group. These are seniors who rely on unhealthy sexual behaviors including addiction to pornography from websites, prostitutes and affairs. Often this addiction destroys relationships with loved ones.

Prescription drugs often interact with alcohol, making the problem worse. Doctors often prescribe opium-based drugs such as benzodiazepine (Valium) for anxiety, muscle relaxation and pain relief. Some seniors become dependent upon these drugs. Symptoms of addiction include excessive daytime sedation, lack of awareness, sleep and motor skill issues. Often seniors with addiction problems no longer pursue hobbies, sports or other interests. Yet doctors often don’t diagnose the problem because seniors “look like my grandma and grandpa.”

Chatfield says he’s had success with the 12 Step Program in which seniors recognize a higher power and work in groups to confront their addiction problems. Other successful programs include the SMART program which is based on building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges whether that be the urge to go on your favorite porn website or taking another pill even though you don’t need it, managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors and living a balanced life. He has witnessed miracles where treatment programs result in people who have a new excitement about life.

At the conclusion of his talk, Rotarian Neil Deppe presented Chatfield with a certificate of appreciation from the SaddleBrooke Rotary Club.