The Emerging Problems of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Late Life

Gary J. Kennedy, Irina Efremova, Amy Frazier, Abdo Saba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Treatment of substance abuse among older adults will become increasingly important as the number of aged Americans increases. The abuse of psychoactive substances is a major contributor to excess morbidity, mortality, and homelessness among persons of all ages and socioeconomic strata regardless of race or ethnicity. Alcohol and tobacco account for the majority of substance abuse-related death and disability in the United States; the former through cerebrovascular and hepatic disease, accidents and violence, the latter through chronic pulmonary disease and malignancy. Patterns of substance abuse in late life are substantially different from those observed among younger adults. However, treatment may be less challenging. Effective diagnosis and treatment requires a nonpunitive, supportive, but persistent approach. This means the capacity to collect a substance intake history and the ability to formulate a treatment plan or referral strategy to an addiction specialist or residential treatment setting. It is also important for the practitioner to manage negative feelings toward patients who decline treatment or who are chronic abusers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Social Distress and the Homeless
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Aging
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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