Adults More Likely to Abuse Alcohol, Not Drugs
Feb 11 2006
4 of 5 Seeking Treatment Do So for
Four out of five people of retirement age
who seek substance abuse treatment do so because of alcohol
problems, instead of abuse of drugs, indicating again that
alcohol abuse by older adults is a growing and many times
Research from 29 states and other
jurisdictions indicate that 80 percent current retirees in
substance abuse treatment needed treatment for alcohol as
their primary substance of abuse in 2003, according to a
report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
By comparison, in the same states only 44
percent who seek treatment do so primarily for alcohol
This is a far higher proportion reporting
alcohol (80 percent of retirees in treatment) than for all
other admissions to treatment in these states (44 percent).
These findings were released today in a report by the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
from continued analysis of the 2003 Treatment Episode Data
Set (TEDS). "Alcohol abuse among older adults is something
few want to talk about or deal with," said SAMHSA
Administrator Charles Curie.
"Too often family members are ashamed of
the problem and choose not to address it. Health care
providers tend not to ask older patients about alcohol abuse
if it wasn't a problem in their lives in earlier years.
Sometimes the symptoms are mistaken for those of dementia,
depression, or other problems common to older adults.
"Unfortunately, too many older persons
turn to alcohol as a comfort, following the death of a
spouse, a divorce, retirement, or some other major life
change, unaware that they are markedly affecting the quality
of their lives."
Older people in treatment reported using
the following substances, compared to other groups seeking
- Opiates, including heroin or
prescription pain medications, five percent compared to 13
- Cocaine, four percent, compared to 14
- Marijuana, three percent, compared to
- Stimulants, including methamphetamine,
one percent, compared to six percent.
Of the older adults in treatment in 2003,
only 17 percent reported a secondary substance of abuse
other than alcohol, compared to 52 percent of others in
SAMSHA's report included data on retirees
in Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia,
Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North
Dakota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas,
Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
TEDS collects data on the approximately
1.8 million annual admissions to substance abuse treatment
facilities, primarily those that receive some public
SAMSHA News Release