Substance Abuse Admissions Double Among Older Adults

THURSDAY Sept. 9, 2010 -- The number of people aged 50 and older admitted for substance abuse treatment in the United States has more than doubled since the early 1990s, says a federal government study.

Admissions for people in this age group increased from 102,700 in 1992 to 231,200 in 2008, and whites accounted for the majority of admissions in both 1992 (65.8 percent) and 2008 (55.6 percent), said the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study.

The proportion of blacks admitted for treatment increased from 19.9 percent to 28.8 percent, while the proportion of Hispanics increased from 9.8 percent to 11.3 percent, the researchers found.

The proportion of women admitted for treatment increased from 18.1 percent (18,391) to 25.1 percent (58,059).

The researchers also identified some significant changes in the sociodemographic characteristics of older admissions.

Unemployment in this group rose from 19.4 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2008, full-time employment decreased from 23.4 percent to 16.7 percent, wages/salary as a principal source of income declined from 32.3 percent to 24.4 percent, and the proportion with no principal source of income rose from 11 percent to 28.8 percent.

"This rise in substance abuse treatment among older adults and the changes in the socioeconomic situations of this treatment group reflect the changing landscape over the past 17 years and highlights the importance of providing additional specialized treatment services and social supports to address these needs," SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in an agency news release.

"To truly battle substance abuse and lower substance abuse levels on all fronts requires a combined effort from the federal government, states and local communities. And people of all ages need to be aware that there is help available to them so that they can take action before a substance abuse problem becomes a devastating addiction," she added.

The study also noted changing trends in marital status and the types of living arrangements among older adults admitted for substance abuse treatment. The proportion of those who said they'd never married increased from 13.2 percent in 1992 to 30.2 percent in 2008, those who were currently married decreased from 33.3 percent to 21.5 percent, and those who were divorced/widowed declined from 43.9 percent to 21.5 percent.

Homelessness in this group of people increased from 15.9 percent to 19.5 percent, while the proportion of those living independently decreased from 72.4 percent to 67.1 percent.

More information

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging has more about substance abuse.

Posted: September 2010


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