Survey: 17 percent of older Americans are addicted
May 8, 1998
The survey shows older people are more likely to hide substance abuse
Web posted at: 12:31 p.m. EDT (1631 GMT)
BURBANK, California (CNN) -- A survey released by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment suggests up to 17 percent of U.S. citizens aged 60 and older are addicted to substances.
"These are mainly problems related to alcohol, tobacco and prescription and over-the-counter medications," Frederic Blow of the Michigan Alcohol Research Center told CNN.
Among the survey's findings: 15 percent of men and 12 percent of women regularly drink in excess of the one-drink-a-day limit suggested by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
"Most people are not screened for alcohol abuse, even though there is significant evidence that many abusers of alcohol start later in life," said Camille Barry of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
Barry also said that older people are more vulnerable to substance abuse because the over-60 age group takes more prescription drugs than any other age group in the United States. Mixing the prescription drugs with alcohol puts users at additional risk.
Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol puts users at additional risk
The survey, released Thursday, was conducted by a non-federal, consensus panel that included primary care doctors, social workers and senior center staff members. The group combined the results of earlier studies done on elderly substance abuse.
The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The researchers say several, intertwining factors can contribute to substance abuse among older citizens, including loosing a spouse, loneliness and moving from a long-loved home into an apartment.
Physiological changes that accompany the aging process can also make a difference. As you get older, you become more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.
"When I was 35, I could definitely have a few more drinks than what I do today. Maybe I'm just slowing down a bit," one woman told CNN.
The survey also found that older people are more likely to hide their addiction and less likely to seek professional help. Health officials urge family members to help identify the problem and seek the proper help.
Correspondent Jennifer Auther contributed to this report.