What’s in grandma’s cocktail?

  • “The combination of alcohol and medication misuse has been estimated to affect up to 19% of older Americans.”
  • “Approximately 25% of older adults use prescription psychoactive medications that have a potential to be misused and abused.”
  •  “Older adults are more likely to take prescribed psychoactive medications for longer periods of time than younger adults.”

Source: http://www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse/specific-populations


Screening for alcohol and substance misuse is necessary to detect the complicated and highly risky behavior of addiction in the elderly population. The guidelines to identify, screen, assess, and treat an elderly person struggling with addiction must address the complex presentations that occur with aging. Co-morbid conditions, such as depression and anxiety, increase the vulnerability of misuse as well as misdiagnosis. Additionally, heavy drinking can worsen health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, osteoporosis, impaired motor functioning and fall risks, and neurological/degenerative cognitive disorders. Both alcohol and substance misuse can cause significant and severe interactions with existing medication regimens that include: aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and allergy medicine, cough syrup, sleeping pills, pain medication, and anxiety or depression medicine. Unfortunately, detection of misuse does not occur at an early stage of misuse, but more often at critical and acute stages of medical interventions. Hospitalized adults over the age of 40 with a diagnosis of alcoholism have an estimated cost of $60 billion per year.

The need for early detection and intervention is necessary to address addiction and co-occurring complex care needs of the elderly population. Innovative models are needed to develop evidenced based practices supporting treatment and engagement of specific aging problems, as well as models of care that are sensitive and effective for cultural groups with high barriers to care.

In case you missed it, check out our recent webinar on Addiction and the Geriatric Population, hosted by the National Council!