Gray Matters: Understanding Substance Use Disorders in Older Adults

January 18, 2022




The prevalence of substance use disorder in older adults is increasing as the baby boom generation ages. Alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs are the leading causes of the increase. High-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder is the leading substance use disorder in older adults. Prescription drug misuse and use disorder in older adults are the second leading cause of substance use disorder. Illicit drug use in older adults is also increasing. As people age, medical conditions, both physical and mental, mask the ability to recognize the impact of substance use, resulting in unexpected and sometimes, very serious outcomes. Screening and assessment of older adults for substance use disorders should be part of regular health visits.

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