Battling With Substance Use Disorder as an Older Adult

This past weekend, The New York Times reported on a rise in substance use among older adults–those aged 50 to 64 years old. Between the years 2002 and 2013, the rate of illicit drug use rose from 2.7 percent to 6 percent.

Retirement and other events that occur later in life, such as losing a spouse or divorce, may contribute to older adults turning to alcohol or drugs as a panacea for loneliness or depression. 

Training physicians to discuss substance use with older patients, and better screening, intervention and referral to treatment could help stem the tide:

“There’s this lore, this belief, that as people get older they become less treatable,” Paul Sacco, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, who researches aging and addiction, told the Times. “But there’s a large body of literature saying that the outcomes are as good with older adults. They’re not hopeless. This may be just the time to get them treatment.”