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How Does Age Affect Addiction?

Pretty much anyone can develop an addiction, no matter what age. There are some special considerations, though, for different age groups that have different effects on health and lifelong patterns. An addicted teen will have some different problems from an addicted adult or an older adult. All addictions are unique in some ways, but broadly speaking, there are some specific concerns for people of different ages.

First, it’s well established that the younger someone starts drinking or using drugs, the more likely he will be to develop an addiction later. This outcome is partly due to family history and partly due to damage to the developing brain. While about a third of people try alcohol for the first time between the ages of 15 and 17, about 16 percent of alcoholics try alcohol before the age of 12.

The teenage years are also the time when many problems correlated with addiction first appear. It’s when people often start getting depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and schizophrenia. If these conditions are caught early and treated, along with any self-medicating, it may prevent addictions from developing later on.

At the other end of the scale, adults over 65 have their own concerns. Although opioid addiction tends to skew young, it has increased among older adults in recent decades. This population is typically more bothered by pain, including arthritis, accidents, and surgery and they have often been over-prescribed opioid painkillers. Thus, people with no addiction history and few risk factors suddenly find themselves addicted to OxyContin.

Another concern for older adults is they tend to be on more medications, which can interact with each other and with alcohol and illicit drugs. Thus, someone who drinks frequently but maybe not excessively may suddenly be in danger from drinking with medications.

Of course, older adults with long-standing alcohol addictions also face mounting health problems as a direct result of prolonged heavy drinking. While a teenage alcoholic may face long-term cognitive issues, his heart and liver will heal relatively quickly. An older alcoholic faces the possibility of heart and liver failure, as well as rapid cognitive decline.

In general, the danger zone for developing addiction is 18 to 25. This is the time when most people are out on their own, but their judgment isn’t quite fully formed. They are still heavily influenced by their peers, and often under a lot of stress from the demands of work and living on their own. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the age when people spend a lot of time at bars, clubs, and parties and are frequently exposed to drugs and alcohol. Although addiction rates drop off after 25, they don’t drop off sharply.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.