Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Progression from Substance Use to Development of Substance Use Disorders in the Older Person
(School of Nursing (UMB) FCH Faculty)
As the proportion of older adults in the population continues to increase in many countries around the globe, forecasts project increasing service needs for substance use problems among the elderly. For example between 2000 and 2020, the number of older adults with substance use problems or in need of treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) are expected to more than double in Europe and the US. Physicians and other caregivers may be more attuned to the physical health problems of older populations, ignoring the signs and symptoms of misuse and SUD. Very little in known about the continuance and onset of substance abuse and its progression to addiction among older adults. This presentation provides a framework for substance involvement and briefly describes various stages that can occur within a continuum of use. Progression can be influenced by individual-level susceptibility (e.g., physiological changes and genetic vulnerability), properties of the substance (e.g., reinforcing properties), and by social environmental factors (e.g., prescribing practices). Age can influence the detection of addiction as signs of abuse and problems resulting from substance use are often dismissed or mistaken for symptoms of ageing problems. Given the impact that substance use problems in older people are likely to have on social and healthcare services, there is a need for a better understanding of substance use behaviors and trajectories, and influences or risk factors for progression among older adults.
Importance to public health: