These are not to be underestimated, as they can progress swiftly at this age. In particular, irritable colon and bladder inflammation have been linked to colon cancer in persons over 60. In addition, elder substance abuse causes an increased risk of household-related accidents, like falls, bone fractures, substance abuse in older adults and burns. The misuse of prescription medications is another prevalent issue among seniors since they often have access to different medicines prescribed by multiple doctors. When patients abuse their drugs – either intentionally or accidentally, it increases their risk of developing addictions.

Identification and treatment of SUDs can be challenging, but is possible with the right knowledge and tools. The path to improving outcomes is determined, in part, by the severity of the problem, the individual’s willingness to get help with reducing or stopping substance misuse, the types of programs available, and the cost of care. Education about alcohol misuse, drug use, and prescription medication misuse.

Early- and Late-Onset Substance Misuse

This group is projected to expand in number as the elderly population in the U.S. increases over the next 20 years. Substance abuse in older adults is sometimes referred to as a hidden problem. It’s underidentified, underdiagnosed and undertreated by the health care system at even higher rates than in younger populations. In addition, alcohol misuse or alcohol use disorder can strain relationships with family members, friends, and others.

Make sure your primary doctor has a list of all the medications you take, even over-the-counter ones. They can improve outcomes130 but are not usually used for long-term treatment of older adults with AUD. Screening for older adults can be verbal (e.g., by interview), with paper-and-pencil forms, or with computerized forms. All three methods are reliable and valid.120 Any positive responses should lead to further questions constituting full assessment (or referral for full assessment by a qualified provider).

Substance Abuse in Older Adults

They may be taking these substances in the same doses or amounts they always did without realizing they now face a higher risk. That is why objective information about the dangers of alcohol or prescription drug use can be helpful. What a person may have, in the past, considered “social drinking” may veer into risky territory.

People should not drink alcohol if they plan to drive, use machinery, or perform other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination. Intervention works well with the mature adult, and the gentle eulogy-like model seems to work better than the angry ultimatum-driven model of intervention. That being said, mature adults are less likely to go directly from the intervention to treatment than an adolescent or young adult, but are more likely than the young adult to keep their commitment to go to treatment a couple days after an intervention. Won, A. B., Lapane, K. L., Vallow, S., Schein, J., Morris, J. N., & Lipsitz, L. A.

Most Commonly Abused Substances​

However, research on this is mixed, and the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid. There is also evidence that many people continue to use both delivery systems to inhale nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. The ASSIST has yet to be validated among older adults, and there is at least anecdotal evidence that it underperforms in this population in part because of the same limitations with a formal DSM diagnosis; the criteria do not apply in the same way for older adults as they do with younger adults.

what are reasons for substance abuse in older adults

If you or a loved one are getting proper support and treatment, it’s important to note that some people may relapse, or start taking substances again after they have stopped. This is common and can feel frustrating, but it’s important to continue on with your treatment journey even if you have a few setbacks. That’s why relying on your healthcare team and having a social support system can help you immensely during your recovery. Knowledge of substance use disorders (SUD) in adults ages 65 and older is limited.

This can make them more likely to have accidents such as falls, fractures, and car crashes. Many people enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two on occasion with friends or family, but alcohol can be addictive. As we age, alcohol consumption can also make existing health problems worse and have dangerous interactions with some medications.

what are reasons for substance abuse in older adults

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. It’s been called the “invisible epidemic.”  But knowing what to look out for can help you protect yourself or a loved one. The TIP consensus panel recommends yearly screening for all adults ages 60 and older and when major life changes occur (e.g., retirement, loss of partner/spouse, changes in health). For more accurate histories, ask questions about substance use in the recent past while asking about other health behaviors (e.g., exercise, smoking, diet).

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