TIP 26: Treating Substance Use Disorder in Older Adults SAMHSA Publications and Digital Products

SUDs may be difficult to recognize and treat in older adults due to the presence of other psychiatric and general medical disorders. Better integration of SUD and general medical treatment, and increased attention to social determinants of health, are important future directions for research and treatment of SUD in elders. The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported an estimated 10.7% of adults aged 65 years and older engaged in past-month binge alcohol use (defined as over 5 drinks on an occasion) and 2.8% engaged in past-month heavy alcohol use (defined as binging in at least 5 of the past 30 days) [3]. The overall number of older adults reporting binge and heavy drinking was likely grossly underestimated when considering that the binge threshold for older adults is typically considered to be 3 drinks per day for men and 2 drinks per day for women. A study utilizing data from the 2014–2019 National Health Interview Surveys reported that the estimated prevalence of past-month binge drinking among men 65 years or older significantly increased from 12.8% in 2015 to 15.7% [15].

  • When assessing or speaking to older adults about substance use, some general considerations should apply.
  • It describes cultural competence and discusses racial, ethnic, and cultural considerations.
  • Also, baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) came of age when opinions about alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs were changing.

Drinking even a small amount of alcohol can lead to dangerous or even deadly situations because it can impair a person’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. Many medicines — prescription, over the counter, or herbal remedies — can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. In the pandemic’s first year, death rates linked to alcohol and https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/abuse-in-older-adults-a-growing-threat/ drugs climbed among seniors as lockdowns and isolation spread. Future research should examine whether the trend toward a “postponement” of old age continues and investigate more diverse populations in other countries, including non-Western countries, to understand how perceptions of aging vary by country and culture, according to the researchers.

Managing Chronic Pain in Adults With or in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders

Older adults may not easily relate to or feel uncomfortable discussing their problems with younger persons. Individual therapy provides a private and confidential forum for older adults to explore their unique issues, without these same risks. Brief screening instruments can assess the level of risk caused by alcohol and drugs. Some screening tools are adaptations of instruments created for younger adults, and others have been designed https://ecosoberhouse.com/ for older adults. Interview screening tools or global selfreport measures are less intrusive or burdensome to the older adult than blood or urine tests. Furthermore, the use of biologic screening (ie, laboratory tests) has limited utility and can be problematic in older adults, as isolating impaired bodily functions (ie, liver function) as the result of alcohol or other substances versus prescribed medications may be difficult.

If you or someone you love is thinking of changing their habits around alcohol, the “Rethinking Drinking” website, hosted by NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), provides information on signs of a problem and tools that can help lead to better health. In older adults, especially, too much alcohol can lead to balance problems and falls, which can result in hip or arm fractures and other injuries. Older people have thinner bones than younger people, so their bones break more easily. Studies show that the rate of various types of fractures in older adults increases with heavy alcohol use. In recent months, her one glass has turned into two or more, sometimes even a whole bottle.

Risk Factors for Substance Use Disorders in Older Adults

These findings are consistent with the results of the National Epidemiological Survey and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III), which estimated the prevalence of AUD and DUD at 2.3 percent and .8 percent, respectively (Grant et al., 2015; Grant et al., 2016). In the United States, the proportion of older adults has been increasing as advances in healthcare, particularly preventative medicine, have fueled longevity. This increase is primarily driven by the baby boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1965, who have had higher rates of substance use at each stage of life compared to previous generations [1]. These increased rates are due to shifting attitudes toward substance use during their upbringing and increased life expectancy [1].

Another thing to keep in mind is that drinks may be stronger than you think they are if the actual serving sizes are larger than the standard sizes. In addition, drinks within the same beverage category, such as beer, can contain different percentages of alcohol. It’s important to read the label to understand and be aware of how much you’re actually drinking. As you grow older, health problems or prescribed medicines may require that you drink less alcohol or avoid it completely. You may also notice that your body’s reaction to alcohol is different than before.

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