Rethinking the Demographics of Addiction: Helping Older Adults Find Recovery
Wednesday, May 5, 2004
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Invited Panelists: David Oslin, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Doris Terry, Former State Supervisor of Health Education for the MD State Dept of Education; Carol Colleran, Director, Hazelden Foundation; James Firman, President and CEO, National Council on the Aging (NCOA)
Researchers are only beginning to realize the pervasiveness of substance use disorders among people aged 60 and older. Until recently, alcohol and prescription drug misuse-which affects as many as 17 percent of older adults-was not discussed in either dependency/addiction or gerontological literature. The reasons for this silence are varied, but a major cause is that health care providers tend to overlook substance use disorders and misuse among older people, mistaking the symptoms for those of dementia, depression, or other problems common to older adults. In addition, older adults are more likely to hide their substance use and less likely to seek professional help. Many relatives of older individuals with substance use disorders, particularly their adult children, are ashamed of the problem and choose not to address it. The result is thousands of older adults who need treatment and do not receive it. This program highlights ways to overcome such barriers and help older adults receive the addiction treatment they need.
Ivette Torres, Associate Director for Consumer Affairs, CSAT, SAMHSA, HHS