Substance Abuse in the Older Adult: References


Polysubstance abuse is becoming a major issue in older adult populations. It can be difficult to identify this issue in older adults due to underestimating their potential to abuse certain substances. In addition, most clinicians are reluctant to ask about substance abuse due to the misconception that older adults don’t deal with addiction. Unfortunately, lack of awareness can lead to this issue going untreated, increasing the risk of other health complications. There is opportunity for improvement in advanced practice nurses’ knowledge and awareness regarding substance abuse and treatment options in older adult populations.


Advanced practice nurses need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in older adults. It would also be advantageous for them to recognize the medical, cultural and psychosocial issues that influence treatment to effectively treat common types of substance abuse.


Substance abuse is becoming more prevalent among older adults. As of 2014, there were 1 million individuals aged 65 or older that had substance use disorder (SUD) (CBHSQ, 2017).Unfortunately, this number is projected to rise rapidly in the coming years. There are many reasons for this rise in number, the main one being the misconception that older adults do not abuse substances and because of that, this problem often goes untreated.  Specifically, with older adults, this is a high-risk issue because they may also be taking prescription medication too, which could lead to adverse interactions and reactions between substances(CBHSQ, 2017).Therefore, it is important for providers to understand how to recognize substance abuse in older patients and be able to provide effective treatment.



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Cohen, D. & Eisdorfer, C. (2011). Integrated textbook of geriatric mental health, The Johns Hopkins University Press

Ebert, M. & Leckman, J. (2015). Current diagnosis and treatment: Psychiatry (2nd ed.) Appelton & Lange (3rd edition due out in November)

Perese, E.F. (2012) Psychiatric Advanced practice nursing: A biopsychosocial foundation for practice, F.A.Davis

Prost E. (2018). Geriatric Examination Tool Kit. University of Missouri, School of Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy

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Stahl, S. M. (2013) Stahls. essential psychopharmacology (4th ed), Cambridge Medicine

Tusaire, K.R. & Fitzpatrick J.J. (2013) Advanced practice nursing: Integrating psychotherapy, psychopharmacology and complementary and alternative approaches, Springer


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