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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Dec;57(12):2275-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2009.02554.x. Epub 2009 Oct 26.

Alcohol, tobacco, and nonmedical drug use in older U.S. Adults: data from the 2001/02 national epidemiologic survey of alcohol and related conditions.

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  • 1Division of Geriatric Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



To examine the prevalence and sociodemographic and health-related correlates of substance use, including alcohol, tobacco, and nonmedical drug use, in adults aged 65 and older.


Cross-sectional, retrospective survey of a population-based sample, the 2001/02 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.


United States.


Eight thousand two hundred five U.S. adults aged 65 and older.


Prevalence of lifetime and previous-12-month alcohol, tobacco, and nonmedical drug use and associations between substance use and sociodemographic and health-related factors.


Almost 80% of older adults had used any of the three substances over their lifetimes, and more than 50% reported such use over the previous 12 months. Alcohol was the most commonly used substance over the lifetime (74%) and in the previous 12 months (45%), followed by tobacco (52% lifetime; 14% previous 12 months); far fewer reported nonmedical use of drugs (5% lifetime; 1% previous 12 months). In general, being younger, male, and divorced or separated were factors consistently associated with use of any of the three substances.


Most older adults had used substances over their lifetimes and in the previous 12 months. Alcohol is the substance of choice for this age group, followed by tobacco; few report nonmedical drug use.

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