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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2006 Nov;19(6):587-92.

Prevalence, risk factors and treatment for substance abuse in older adults.

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  • 1Centre for Mental Health Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.



This paper briefly outlines new research on the epidemiology of alcohol and drug use in the older population, describes mental and cognitive consequences of substance use and summarizes recent treatment trials for alcohol dependence.


Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies indicate that alcohol use is less prevalent in older groups, and it decreases over time. Comorbidity (alcohol and other drugs, alcohol with mental health disorders) is high. An inverse-U-shaped curve describes the association between alcohol consumption and cognitive impairment with increased impairment for abstainers and high users as compared with moderate users. Trials of alcohol use in the older population are rare, but they suggest that brief patient education may reduce drinking levels in primary care populations, and that, for some users, integrated primary care may be more useful than referral to specialist care.


The basis for higher risk in abstainers is not resolved. More randomized controlled trials are needed, which target alcohol use and dependence and also focus on comorbid disorders.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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