CEUnits Blog

Risks Associated with Alcohol and Drug Use in Older Adulthood

November 11th, 2014

CEUnits.com Continuing Education Company

-by Megan Ferguson, Contributing Writer

Prescription medications, over-the-counter medical products, and natural and alternative medicines are widely used by older adults in North America. However, although medications play an important role in healthcare and disease management, there use comes with many risks. Researchers project a 3-fold increase in substance abuse in adults aged 50 or older by 2020. Consequently, an estimated 5 million older adults will require treatment by counselors and drug addiction professionals for substance abuse problems.

Substance use and misuse place older adults at risk for a variety of possible clinical dangers, contributing to increased use of healthcare resources and a need for age-specific interventions. In addition, older adults who abuse alcohol have an increased morbidity rate, emergency room visits and admission in hospitals. However, problems also exist in identifying older people with alcohol related problems, as the symptoms of alcohol harm may be mistaken for other health conditions common in late adulthood such as falling, infections, or digestion problems. Approximately 15% of individuals 65 years of age and older living in the community are at risk for alcohol abuse or dependence and 50% of individuals living in personal care homes drink moderately or are dependent on alcohol. However, only 90% of individuals who are at risk for alcohol abuse or dependence do not receive alcohol treatment services. Therefore, the selective screening approach also suggests that older people are rarely asked about their alcohol consumption.

Adults are more at risk

Additionally, older adults are at a higher risk for prescription drug addiction due to multiple factors. Firstly, increased access to prescription medication through advertisement and less stigma attached to prescription drug use allows older individuals to use prescription medications with decreased barriers. Secondly, older adults consumer more prescription and over-the-counter medications, than other age groups and are more likely to use the medication inappropriately. Thirdly, the current baby boomers in society have an increased life expectancy and have transformed into a “quick fix” society.

Risk of illicit drugs

Illicit drugs may also be increasing in a small percentage in older adults. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that illicit drug use by adults 55 to 59 has increased from 1.9% in 2002 to 5.0% in 2008, which depicts the potential for growth in illicit drug use in the baby boomer cohort. However, illicit drug use in older adults is typically linked to individuals who are lifelong drug users.
If you would like additional information regarding addiction in older adulthood, CEUnits.com offers a course in Substance Use, Misuse, and Abuse Among Older Adults  (Informatiion and statistics in the article are drawn from this course).

Clients afraid to slow down

November 11th, 2014

CEUnits.com Psychologist Courses

Psychotherapists are reporting an interesting phenomenon – clients who are afraid to “slow down”. There certainly are plenty of messages and pressures to constantly go faster in our society.

Psychotherapists also know that “faster and faster” can trigger mental health problems and exacerbate existing problems. This particularly becomes a problem when it becomes pervasive in all realms of one’s life. However, it can be difficult for many clients to see the impact of “faster and faster”. Trying to talk them out of it is usually futile.

Perhaps we can borrow from exposure theory to help our clients? One approach is to lay out the possibility of the client running some experiments. For example two days with a focus on living primarily in third gear and two days of living predominantly in fifth gear. Or, see how many days you can operate in fifth gear. Or some days when “waiting time” (like waiting in line, or waiting for the computer to do something) is for breathing/relaxing/mindfulness/doodling, and other days “waiting time” is filled with doing more. You get the idea, and of course, you will use your own creativity to develop such experiments. The goal is not necessarily to convince the client of slow vs. fast, but for the client to interrupt the normal pattern and learn something from it.

For continuing psychologist CEUs please visit our available courses.