Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne recently attended and spoke at the Phoebe Institute on Aging’s Fall Conference, “Understanding Addiction and Older Adults,” at DeSales University.

The conference explored both the trend of addiction in older adults and insights into treatment modalities to offer hope in a time of crisis.

“Older Pennsylvanians may be a minority among those seeking treatment for substance abuse, yet alcohol and drug problems, in particular prescription drug abuse, among older adults is one of the fastest-growing health problems facing the country,” said Osborne.

Today, 2.5 million older adults have an alcohol or drug problem. Widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in the U.S., and older adults are hospitalized as often for alcohol-related problems as they are for heart attacks.

Nevertheless, addiction in older adults can be difficult to detect, as warning signs mimic insomnia, forgetfulness, and other common, age-related health issues.

Growing older brings on many changes in health, lifestyle, family obligations, work roles, and sources of support. It can also bring physical pain, stress, loneliness, and loss of mobility.

The very real difficulties of aging can become overwhelming and drive seniors toward an unhealthy reliance on alcohol or drugs. In other cases, a preexisting addiction may worsen over the years.

The state’s opioid disaster declaration, initiated earlier this year by Gov. Wolf, expands access to evidence-based, medication-assisted treatment to help Pennsylvanians who suffer from the disease of addiction and ensure they have access to the care they need.

Pennsylvanians looking for information on treatment for themselves or a loved one can call (800) 662-HELP (4357) toll-free, 24/7, to be connected to resources in their community.

A live chat option is also available online or via text message at (717) 216-0905 for those seeking help who may not be comfortable speaking to a helpline operator.

To learn more about the opioid epidemic and addiction treatment, visit

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