Substance misuse in older people

by Dr Rahul Rao and Professor Ilana Crome


Last updated: February 2017


Substance misuse in older people is a growing public health problem and is often overlooked. Although alcohol is a very commonly used substance, older people also smoke cigarettes, misuse prescribed medications, buy over-the-counter medication and are increasingly using illicit drugs. These substances impact on mental health, even if the effects may seem less obvious than in younger people. 


Older people access many different care pathways, including liaison psychiatry and old age psychiatry services. 'Dual diagnosis’ (comorbid substance misuse and psychiatric illness), rather than substance misuse alone, is the commonest presentation within old age psychiatry services.


While the evidence base for the treatment of substance misuse in older people is limited, evidence suggests that older people engage better in treatment when compared with younger people.  


This module will cover the following areas: 


  • terminology, classification and diagnosis


  • epidemiology, assessment and psychological treatment of alcohol misuse (including a video case presentation)  


  • comorbid psychiatric illness and substance misuse or ‘dual diagnosis’


  • benzodiazepine misuse


  • misuse of other substances e.g. prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, opiates and nicotine


  • treatment of substance misuse.


Start the module



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