Substance Use Among Older Adults Reading List

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Around the world, people are living longer, meaning the global population of older adults is increasing.

Older adults are often dealing with multiple health difficulties and are particularly vulnerable to the impact of substance use. There needs to be greater understanding about the reasons why older adults use substances, the potential consequences and the way professionals can work with people to reduce the risk of harm. 

Below, you can find research and resources addressing the issue.

We have a Network dedicated to the subject of substance use amongst older adults. It would be great to hear your experiences of working with this group of people.

1) Treatment for substance use issues in older adults needs to be tailored to support the needs of each individual. In this systematic review, entitled Treatment for Opioid Use and Outcomes in Older Adults, the authors examine the topic of opioid use disorder amongst older adults, including misuse of prescription medication, and any interventions.

2) Older adults are often faced with multiple stressors. Isolation, loss, a decline in independence and physical health are some of the common factors that can contribute to an increase in harmful substance use. NIDA has gathered a selection of resources examining substance use amount older adults including fact sheets, blog posts and signposting list.

3) It is important that older adults experiencing substance use issues receive high quality evidenced support. In this guide, published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the authors provide information on effective treatments for addiction-related issues that have been adapted to meet the needs of older adults.

4) The Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) has created a handy factsheet that includes a selection of case studies, example questions to ask during screening assessments, and an overview of the different treatment options for older adults with substance misuse difficulties.

5) The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), acknowledging the stigma often attached to substance use and addiction-related issues, has released a publication entitled Improving Quality of Life: Substance Use and Aging. The guide addresses key issues such as ‘The Aging Brain and Substance Use’ and ‘Epidemiology of Psychoactive Substance Use among Older Adults’.

6) In this webinar recording, researchers from the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and Scottish Alcohol Research Network, discuss the results of a new systematic literature review that examined existing evidence for interventions with people experiencing problematic substance use in later life.

7) In this research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the authors examine the changes in alcohol consumption over a 3-year period among the over-60s in Spain, in order to better understand these issues and guide interventions to prevent excessive alcohol intake in later life.