Sex, Drugs, and Ozzy: Older Adults Are Struggling with Addiction

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ozzy-osbourne-1Heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne recently revealed to the public that he is receiving “intense therapy” for his sex addiction, a condition he says he has been secretly struggling with for six years.

The British icon, whose real name is John Michael Osbourne, says he has had multiple affairs throughout those six years that have affected his family and threatened to end his 34-year marriage to wife, Sharon.

He disclosed via a statement to the media in early August, saying, “Over the last six years, I have been dealing with a sex addiction,” after the media exposed his affair with his hair colorist.

“Out of bad comes good,” Ozzy said in the statement. “Since the press exposed this, I have gone into intense therapy. I am mortified at what my behavior has done to my family. I thank God that my incredible wife is at my side to support me.”

Sharon, 63, confirmed his treatment for sex addiction during an episode of The Talk, where she is a co-host.

“He’s been going [to] outpatient [therapy] for sex addiction for the last three months and after the tour … he goes into inpatient for three months,” she said. “It’s hard, because it affects the whole family … I’m proud that he’s come out and admitted it finally.”

Ozzy’s an Open Book About Substance Abuse Battles

It is one more admission to add to the list for Ozzy. He is no stranger to addiction, and the fact that he isn’t is widely known. Now 67, some regard the baby boomer as one of the most famous recovering addicts in history, a reputation he earned during the decades he abused drugs and alcohol. His nearly 50-year career is filled with stories about his drinking and drugging that took place with band members and while alone.

“Ozzy has made no secret of his battle with drink and drugs, which included a heroin addiction and a heavy cocaine habit alongside cannabis, LSD and a host of prescription medication which he would routinely down with bottles of booze,” writes The Daily Mirror.

In 1979, his erratic behavior linked to his issues with substance abuse prompted his Black Sabbath bandmates to kick him out of the group, and in the past, he has referred to a 40-year period of his life as a “bender,” slang for a wild binge-drinking spree. So, the aging metal icon has been candid and open about his struggles.

Ozzy and Black Sabbath recently reconnected to put on a farewell tour for fans. None of them drink or do drugs anymore, the rocker said.

The fact that Ozzy is still alive and kicking after his long history with drugs and alcohol was so puzzling to scientists that a few years back, they started to work on mapping his genetic code to see how he managed to live a long time despite his abuse.

Addiction in Later Life: Can We Talk About It?

During the episode of The Talk, his wife, Sharon, said it’s easier to disclose struggles with alcohol and drugs, but “when it’s somebody that has a sex addiction, it’s embarrassing,” she said.

Some may see it differently.

While drug and alcohol addiction could be easier to talk about because they are discussed more in the media (and because they affect a wide range of groups), people age 65 and older who are struggling with addiction aren’t what comes to mind when the subject is discussed.

There are people in Ozzy’s generation who continue to struggle with any, or perhaps all, of the three: addictions to alcohol, drugs, and sex. Yet, their challenges often don’t make it into the public forum on substance abuse. Such challenges do not come up in everyday conversation, and these issues are still hard to talk about for many in the 65-plus age group. For some, it is even harder to ask for the help they know they need or find the motivation to step foot into places where they can get it.

Seniors: A Silent Demographic


It is widely known that addiction does not discriminate and that it affects people of different ages and in different stages of their lives. However, certain groups of the population continue to suffer in silence and watch their lives become unmanageable before they spiral out of control.

Ozzy Osbourne’s courage to admit his sex addiction is more than just gossip mill fodder. This latest chapter in his life is an opportunity to address issues facing seniors with addiction, be it involving alcohol, drugs, sex, or other things. It also is a chance to encourage people in their golden years that they can make a new start, even if it happens later in life.

September is National Recovery Month, and in recognition of it, the Palm Beach Institute is taking a closer look at addiction among older people and how they are affected. In 2012, the older population–people who were age 65 and older–numbered at 43.1 million that year.

According to Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch, “the United States is projected to age significantly over this period, with 20 percent of its population age 65 and over by 2030.”

What’s Next?

We can expect that the issues today’s seniors face, which include addiction, will only continue, and they deserve our attention and focus. This four-part series will explore addiction and dependence in older adults–why it happens, who it happens to, and what can be done about it.

Stay tuned next Tuesday, Sept. 13, for “Sex, Drugs, and Ozzy: Age Won’t Slow Down Senior Drinking,” which addresses alcohol and substance abuse addiction among older adults.

Drug & Alcohol Treatment for Older Adults

The signs of alcoholism and drug abuse are different in older adults as compared to younger people. In older populations, drinking and drug use is often hidden. This is due to a number of factors including that older adults often live alone and may be retired and away from peers and co-workers who may have noticed their increasingly abnormal behavior. Older adults also don’t drive as much as younger people do and therefore do not get cited or arrested for driving under the influence.

Signs that an older adult may have a drinking or drug problem include solitary drinking or sneaking drinks during public or family functions, loss of interest in hobbies, hostility or depression, use of drugs and alcohol despite the dangers of use with prescription drugs, and confusion or loss of memory. Approaching an older adult with a substance abuse problem can be difficult because using labels such as addict or alcoholic may cause an older individual to retreat further away from support and deeper into their substance abuse behavior.

There can be other roadblocks for older adults in regards to seeking and receiving treatment. One roadblock is ageism, or the tendency for a society to paint negative stereotypes to older adults. Instead of focusing on their problems in a medical or social context, the problem is attributed to a person being older. As a result of the effects of ageism, older adults may shy away from seeking treatment or have fears that the quality of treatment may diminish due to their age.

Another roadblock is an overall lack of awareness that older adults struggle with drug and alcohol problems. This lack of awareness coupled with the continuing stigma of addiction in society as a whole can put up a barrier between the older adult and the treatment they may need. Older adults tend to be more sensitive to labels and stigma in comparison to younger age groups. Within the older adult populations, there are subsets that may experience more barriers to recovery such as older women, older minority populations and those older adults who are homebound.

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following criteria should be features in recovery programs for older adults:

  • Group treatment that is age-specific, supportive and non-confrontational
  • Special focus on depression, loneliness, and loss
  • Rebuilding social support networks
  • Treatment staff should be interested in working with older adults
  • Pace and content of treatment is appropriate for older populations
  • Treatment should be linked to other medical services that serve the aging community

There should be also an emphasis on building those protective factors that promote healthy behavior and creates an empowerment mindset. That can include access to housing and healthcare, access to groups that foster strong social and community bonds, education and skills training and access to volunteer opportunities among other programs.

Need Help?

Substance abuse among the aging and elderly often goes unnoticed or undiagnosed, especially in longtime drug and/or alcohol users. If you, or someone you know, have an older parent, spouse or another family member, friend or someone else you are concerned about who is an older person battling addiction, call (855) 534-3574 now to speak with one of our Palm Beach Institute specialists. They can help you find a treatment program tailored to your specific needs today. They are standing by around the clock, waiting for your call.

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