Thursday, 21 August 2003: 13:45-15:15
Sheraton Ballrooms I-V (Sheraton Hotel and Towers)

S088 Issues in the Management of Substance Abuse in Older Adults

Until fairly recently the issue of substance abuse in the elderly tended to be overlooked. Reasons for this are varied, but include mistaking symptoms for delirium, depression, and cognitive impairment, and the reluctance of patients and their family members to seek help. With life expectancy in the western world increasing, the number of patients with substance abuse problems is increasing at an alarming rate. Alcohol use is the most common, with community rates ranging from 3 to 25% for heavy alcohol use, and from 2.9 to 9.6% for alcohol abuse. The abuse of both prescription and over the counter medications is also a problem in the older adult, as well as the use of illegal drugs of abuse. There are many barriers to identifying substance abuse in the elderly, and many of the screening tools in current use may not be adequate for this population. Alcohol detoxification presents a special problem in these patients due to comorbid medical illnesses, concomitant medications, and the side effects of the most commonly used medications, the benzodiazepines. Traditional methods of outpatient treatment, such as 12 step programs, may be less useful for these patients, and more didactically based treatments may be more appropriate. Comorbid psychiatric illness also presents a challenge in diagnosing and treating this population. This symposium will review the current research and literature on substance abuse in the elderly, as well as focus on practical management approaches.
Chair:Lesley Blake
 S088-001 Identifying Substance Abuse in Older Adults
Cheryl Irmiter
 S088-002 The Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome in the Elderly: Recognition and Management
Lesley Blake
 S088-003 Substance Abuse Disorders Comorbid with other Psychiatric Illness
Robert Carl Marks
 S088-004 Programming for Substance Abuse in the Elderly
Leala Berman

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