Substance Abuse Among The Elderly

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Introduction The first baby boomers, generally defined as those Americans born between 1946 and 1964, turn 65 in 2011. The number of older Americans will increase from 35 to 70 million by the year 2030 (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, 2000). The nation’s population will increase 18% during and the population aged 65 and older will increase 78% ( Wan, Sengupta, Velkoff, & DeBarros, 2005). One growing concern within the elderly population is that of substance abuse as it pertains to the increasing numbers of substance abusers, and/or the increasing rates of substance abuse among the elderly population. A national public health concern is that the rate of elderly substance abuse will rise sharply as boomers enter older adulthood. This research is not intended to be an entire comprehensive and exhaustive review of all research findings but a review to highlight those findings concerning substance abuse among the elderly. Literature presented in this review reflects substance abuse within the elderly demographic. Research can be traced to projections of baby boomers’ substance abuse based on the cohort’s early and continuing involvement with alcohol and illicit drugs. For example Simoni-Wastila (2004) stated “widely acknowledged that . . . drug use and abuse will be compounded in the near future as the baby boomer population, known for both its historical and current acceptance of licit and illicit drug taking, begins entering older adulthood.”

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