The elderly population has certain features related to people’s age, health and socioeconomic status that expose them to a considerable risk of substance abuse. Those features include a wide range of chronic illnesses, specific pain syndromes with a prevalence of chronic pain, higher risk for incidents and injuries connected to aging, diminished access to quality health care, and lower overall health care utilization. Moreover, geriatric training among health professionals is often scarce or even absent. Therefore, older adults are at significant risk for substance abuse, and this issue has little attention in the healthcare industry.
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Existing statistics on substance abuse among older adults are not favorable. According to Kuerbis, Sacco, Blazer, & Moore (2014), elderly population demonstrates concerning levels of alcohol, tobacco, and medication use. The data on opioids abuse follows a similar trend: “Rates of abuse and misuse of prescription opioids were lower for older adults than for younger adults; however, mortality rates among the older ages followed an increasing linear trend” (West, Severtson, Green, & Dart, 2015, p. 117). Furthermore, the level of illicit drug use among older adults in the US is higher than among older adults in other countries (Kuerbis et al., 2014). Therefore, the need to broach this subject appears to be extremely high.
To address this problem, health assessment procedures in medical facilities should include a respectful investigation into drinking habits and medication use in older adults. Brief interventions providing information about the harmful effects of substance use showed to be effective in this population (West et al., 2015). Such interventions could be implemented in standard practice throughout the healthcare industry. Access to self-help groups could further foster the possibility of improvement.
In conclusion, the problem of substance abuse among older adults involves various triggers such as health issues related to the aging process and lesser access to health care. Such conditions could aggravate substance abuse in the absence of effective instruments to recognize it, manage, and ultimately prevent. Timely investigations and regular interventions should be developed and executed to help the elderly population dealing with triggering issues and provide the necessary support.
Kuerbis, A., Sacco, P., Blazer, D. G., & Moore, A. A. (2014). Substance abuse among older adults. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 30(3), 629-654. Web.
West, N. A., Severtson, S. G., Green, J. L., & Dart, R. C. (2015). Trends in abuse and misuse of prescription opioids among older adults. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 149, 117-121. Web.