Substance Abuse in Older Adults
Social workers need to be cognizant of the fact that a wide range of factors usually places the geriatric population at risk of problematic substance abuse, such as the stress that arises from the loss of economic and social support and the loss of a spouse as well as other stressors (Butler Center for Addiction, 2015). Other major factors that also play a contributory role in drug and substance abuse that social workers ought to be mindful of include a history of substance abuse and a medical history of substance abuse, which are also contributing factors for drug and substance abuse.
Some of the major considerations that social workers have concerns regarding older adults’ use of drugs and other substances relates to the effects of these substances on their aging brain. This can be attributed to the fact that the decline in physiological functions means that individuals from the senior population are bound to metabolize substances more slowly, thereby making their brains sensitive to drugs. Furthermore, the senior population is also at an increased risk of experiencing mood disorders and heart, lung, and memory problems. Drugs may exacerbate these conditions, leading to poor health outcomes (Minkove, 2019).
One valuable piece of information from the lesson’s reading that comes as a shock is that a 2019 study of patients above the age of 50 established that more than 30% of those who misuse prescription opioids expressed suicidal tendencies, compared to the 1% of those that did not use the medication. This information underscores the need for meticulous screening before medication prescription, an aspect that clinicians usually overlook. As a social worker, an aspect that I am likely to ask an older adult to determine whether there are any substance use concerns is whether big life changes, such as retirement, loss, and grief, are affecting them negatively (Abuse, 2020). The rationale for this stems from the fact that a significant proportion of adults take these substances to cope with significant life changes that usually come as a shock to them, such as the onset of chronic conditions, the loss of spouses, and the loss of economic support.
Abuse, N. I. on D. (2020). Substance Use in Older Adults Drug Facts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-in-older-adults-drugfacts
Butler Center for Addiction. (2015). Older Adults and Drug Abuse. Hazeldenbettyford.org. https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/education/bcr/addiction-research/older-adults-drug-abuse-ru-315
Minkove, J. (2019). Substance Use Disorders in Older Adults: A Growing Threat. Www.hopkinsmedicine.org. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/substance-use-disorders-in-older-adults-a-growing-threat
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Please review the readings and consider the following in your response:
• What do Social Workers need to be aware of relating to substance use in older adults?
• What are some considerations for a Social Worker who has concerns about an older adult’s use of substances?
• Did any information in the readings/video surprise you?
• As a Social Worker, what questions would you want to ask an older adult client you are working with to determine if there are any substance use concerns?
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