Treatment Admissions Double for Older Adults

Substance-abuse treatment admissions for people 50 and older more than doubled between 1992 and 2008, corresponding to significant changes in their sociodemographic status, USA Today reported Sept. 9.

According to the Treatment Episode Data Set, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reporting system from treatment facilities across the country, unemployment in this age group rose from 19 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2008, while homelessness increased from 16 percent to 20 percent. The number of patients 50 and older who said they had no significant source of income jumped from 11 percent to 29 percent.

Additionally, the number of older adult patients reporting they were married dropped from 33 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2008, while the number of people who reported never being married rose from 13 percent to 30 percent.

The increase in older adults seeking substance abuse treatment may be linked to these demographic changes, suggested Peter Delany, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.

“What we have is a group of older people who have fewer resources socially, fewer fiscal resources, and have less employability,” he said.

Another contributing factor may be the decreased stigma associated with seeking substance abuse treatment, said Gregory Stuart, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who specializes in substance-abuse issues.

The full report, “Sociodemographic Characteristics of Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Aged 50 or Older: 1992 to 2008” is available on the SAMHSA website.

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