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Friday, January 6, 2012

Conference - Substance misuse and older people

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), in its June 2011 report; Our Invisible Addicts, highlighted the emerging problem of drug and alcohol misuse in the older population. This is likely to become a significant public health issue with the huge projected increase in the number of older people in the population and a proportion of those people who are likely to be drinking more than the weekly recommended limits.
Before the problem spirals, there is an urgent need for health and social care professionals and service providers to understand the size of the problem and to develop some targeted and age-appropriate solutions.
The RCP report points to several significant factors that must be considered including:
  • Mortality rates linked to drug and alcohol use are higher in older people compared with younger people.
  • High rates of mental health problems in older people (including a high prevalence of cognitive disorders) result in frequent, complex psychiatric morbidity accompanying substance use disorders.
  • Older people use large amounts of prescription and overthe- counter (OTC) medication and rates of misuse are high, particularly in older women.
  • Although illicit drug use is uncommon in the over 65-age group, there have already been significant increases in the over 40 age group.
Alongside the health issues that arise from substance misuse, there are a whole set of psychosocial factors at play that may trigger higher rates of alcohol use including bereavement, loneliness, depression and boredom. Physical health is also greatly impacted where there is heavy alcohol, tobacco or drug use including cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive complaints. Misuse of medication including OTC medicines through self-prescribing, is a further concern.

This conference will be highlight the size and shape of the problem; the physical and psychiatric implications; assessment criteria; developing age appropriate services and some case studies of successful services in two very different parts of the country.

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