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Do we underestimate substance misuse among older adults?

  • Comments (11)

Do we underestimate substance misuse among older adults?

In a two part series on substance misuse and older adults the author suggests that one in six older men and one in 15 older women are drinking enough to harm themselves and the prevalence of illicit drug use among older Europeans is increasing.

The nature and pattern of alcohol and drug misuse in older people and the associated psychological and physical comorbidity are different from those in younger people. The development of substance misuse is more likely to be associated with alcohol, and prescribed and over-the-counter medicines.

It is suggested practitioners routinely ask older people questions about their use of alcohol and drugs. In view of the complexity of the health and social issues involved, care, management and treatment should be tailored to meet the specific needs of this vulnerable group.

  • Comments (11)

Readers' comments (11)

  • Anonymous

    In my role when we assess service user this a must ask question, well alcohol use any we. We asks this routinely, but as we all know not everyone is honset about their intake of drugs/alcohol/smoking.

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  • A Nonny Mouse

    It's very commo but some people won't accept that they are dependent on alcohol, nicotine or drugs. Try telling someone they are dependent on over-the-counter (and often prescription) analgesia. To a lot of people it's only the young 'drop-outs' who are affected.

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  • Anonymous

    it can also be highly offensive to question responsible senior citizens about their personal life and habits which are nobody's business except their own just to find those who have a problem of abuse.

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  • Anonymous

    'senior citizens' are the same as everyone else, if a doctor thinks it appropriate to ask about alcohol, tobacco and over-the counter medication then why does it matter how old someone is. I've looked after many older people who have alcohol abuse, they need the same care as everyone else and have the same problems.

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  • Anonymous

    I wonder how many patients who become acutely confused or agitated could be spared blood tests, xrays and 'infection screens' if they had only told the staff that they regularly drink alcohol, smoke or take analgesia.

    As long as staff tiptoe around 'vulnerable' patients then it will remain a taboo and nobody benefits.

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  • Anonymous

    what about the large numbers of nurses and doctors who abuse alcohol? they are also a potential danger to their patients and this fact should not be hidden from them!

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  • Anonymous

    my post above should read 'substance abuse'. alcohol narrows it down too much!

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  • Anonymous

    Substance misuse affects many people from all age groups and all backgrounds. People have to admit they have a problem before they can get the help they need. That applies to nurses, doctors, patients and any other 'group' of society.

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  • A Nonny Mouse

    Yes, we do. That is why research shows this to be the case.

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  • Anonymous

    ANon 6 Aug 5.38 pm

    "People have to admit they have a problem before they can get the help they need."


    In my experience, they also have to have a visible problem before they can get the help they need. Just saying you feel depressed or have a problem which does not have any visible signs does not attract the same attention and help as somebody who displays behavioural problems, when help can sometimes be less effective or come too late.

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