Substance Abuse Among Older Adults Essay

1317 WordsNov 7, 20166 Pages
I was surprised to hear that substance abuse is a growing epidemic among our elderly because when I think of the elderly I don’t think falling over on the floor drunk or sitting at a bar knocking drinks back. It really is an “invisible epidemic”. It was shocking to hear that because of insufficient knowledge, health care providers often overlook substance abuse among older adults and fail to diagnose them correctly. “Symptoms of substance abuse in older individuals sometimes mimic symptoms of other medical and behavioral disorders common among this population, such as diabetes, dementia, and depression. Problems stopping from alcohol consumption, including interactions of alcohol with prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, far outnumber any other substance abuse problem among older adults. Furthermore, many of the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse among younger populations do not apply to older adults: older adults are no longer in the work force, have smaller social networks, and drive less. Even when there is the suspicion of a substance abuse disorder, the practitioner may have difficulty applying the diagnostic criteria to a wide variety of nonspecific symptoms. With a younger patient, serious physical problems can be more easily ruled out, leading quickly to a diagnosis of substance abuse in the presence of certain symptoms. With an older patient, health care providers are often in a quandary - symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, insomnia, chronic pain, or

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