Substance Abuse in Older Adults: How Common Is It?

Since most people can’t, treatment is usually the answer, and it’s almost always the correct answer. While the incidence of substance use disorder (SUD) is lower in older than in younger people, nearly a million people 65 and older are estimated to be https://ecosoberhouse.com/ battling addiction in the U.S. Use of illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin (and marijuana, in some states) is much lower in people 50 and up than in younger people. But it’s more common among this age group in the U.S. than almost anywhere else.

  • This TIP is designed to help providers and others better understand how to identify, manage, and prevent substance misuse in older adults.
  • Once you retire, problem drinking or drug use doesn’t interfere with your job.
  • Collaborative models of care can achieve this goal either in-person or with the use of digital technologies (Ramuji et al., 2019).
  • Overall, gather as much information as you can about the program or provider before making a decision on treatment.
  • It’s essential to understand why seniors are increasingly suffering from addiction so we can better prevent it in older adults.
  • Barb is carefully watched throughout detoxification at the facility; she is then transferred to the rehabilitation program, which includes an age-specific track for older adults.

Researchers at the University of Michigan developed the MAST-G, a 24-item screening instrument specifically for use with older adults. Societal norms tend to reinforce the perception that older adults do not have SUD (Kuerbis and Sacco, 2013). This belief can be internalized by older adults, leading them to avoid treatment. On the positive side, because individuals ages 65 and older are eligible for Medicare, insurance is less often a barrier to care. Support groups are often an essential part of a substance abuse treatment program and may be especially helpful after a more intensive treatment plan, or a stay in a residential program, has ended. Seniors are frequently unaware of the risks they are taking by misusing or abusing psychotropic substances.

Chapter 1 Appendix

This could include new clinical trials with less restrictive inclusion criteria, use of electronic medical records and observational studies, and simulations, as well as a combination of all these approaches (Blanco et al., 2017). Generally speaking, it may suit someone better to be in a treatment program with peers and other individuals in similar life circumstances. Since older adults may abuse substances for different reasons than younger ones, it may be beneficial to separate treatment programs for different peer groups. Side effects of substance abuse and addiction may also be similar to signs of aging, further making a substance abuse or dependency diagnosis more convoluted. More middle-aged and older adults are misusing alcohol, opioids, heroin, and marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 2019 that rates of substance use had climbed in adults between 50 and 64 years old and in those 65 years and older in the previous decade.

  • Many behavioral therapies and medications have been successful in treating substance use disorders in older adults.
  • The twelve-month prevalence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and drug use disorder (DUD) (the NSDUH does not publish disaggregated information on specific drugs for adults ages 65 and older), were 1.6 percent and .4 percent, respectively.
  • More middle-aged and older adults are misusing alcohol, opioids, heroin, and marijuana.
  • Individuals are advised to talk to their doctors about the best form of primary treatment.
  • For many, continued follow up with a treatment provider is critical to overcoming problem drinking.
  • Research by Blazer and Wu carried out for the National Institutes of Health found that 2.9 million adults over 50 years of age used opioids non-medically in 2012.

This provider should be knowledgeable of older adults’ needs and of age-sensitive/age-specific resources in the community. Using multiple treatments as needed, including pharmacotherapy and psychosocial interventions. It’s a big and sometimes scary step to take, and most people would prefer to skip it altogether if they could get sober independently.

Identifying Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Older Population

Carl’s score on the AUDIT is a 9 and includes positive responses to daily drinking and binge drinking about once a month. For many older adults, the relationship with their primary care provider is often one of their strongest and most stable. The annual physical is a chance to screen for alcohol misuse and any changes in alcohol use related to life events, such as a death in the immediate family. The following scenario addresses the importance of conducting an annual screen for alcohol misuse with older adults and shows how to actively link clients to a referral for grief counseling and care coordination. Screening, assessing, and treating mental disorders (including depression and anxiety) within the scope of your practice, or referring to mental health services. For example, if an older adult has chronic liver disease and drinks any alcohol or even binge drinks just once a week, he or she may not meet DSM-5 criteria for AUD.

  • Remember that your loved one is ultimately responsible for managing his or her illness.
  • Older-adult substance users may not present with the same symptoms as their younger counterparts and, therefore, may be more difficult to identify.
  • Be sure to offer recovery-specific social supports, like mutual-aid support programs and peer support programs, among your services and referral options.

You might be surprised to learn how many older adults are living with addiction, misusing substances like alcohol, nicotine and prescription medications—and experts say it’s not something to take lightly. It is important that as you try to help your loved one, you find a way to take care of yourself as well. It may help to seek support from others, including friends, family, community, and support groups.

Types of Professionals Involved in Care

A study by Van Citters and Brockmann, published in the Journal of Dual Diagnoses, showed that early-onset abusers (where the abuse started before they turned 65) tend to have many more mental and physical problems that require treatment than their late-onset counterparts. The latest research on the effects of substances and certain medications (e.g., benzodiazepines) on cognition and brain functioning in general. The following table shows the many types of barriers older adults potentially face in addressing substance misuse. The table includes citations of supporting research; access these references to learn more about each barrier and how it affects older adults. Protective factors help prevent or reduce substance misuse in older adults.106,107,108
Exhibit 1.7 lists protective factors against substance misuse in older adults.

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For an online assessment of your drinking pattern, go to RethinkingDrinking.niaaa.nih.gov. A key factor in long-term recovery for older adults is not having people in their social networks who encourage alcohol use. Should also be involved throughout treatment, including during development of a posttreatment recovery plan substance abuse in older adults for the older adult and ongoing recovery support. Often make the first contact with treatment services and should be involved in the initial assessment of the older adult (with the older adult’s permission). Include family members and caregivers in conversations about treatment planning, with clients’ permission.

In recent years, the number of older adults suffering from addiction has risen. This alarming trend is due to a combination of factors, including an increase in access to prescription drugs and alcohol and a decrease in family support and social interaction, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, many older adults are dealing with chronic physical or mental health issues that substance use disorders can exacerbate. Lower amounts of alcohol or drugs may have bigger effects, and tolerance levels may be lower.

what is the best treatment for substance abuse in older adults?

Overcoming alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process, one which can include setbacks. Scientists are working to develop a larger menu of pharmaceutical treatments that could be tailored to individual needs. As more medications become available, people may be able to try multiple medications to find which they respond to best. Some are surprised to learn that there are medications on the market approved to treat alcohol dependence.

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