DOI: 10.5176/2315-4330_WNC15.42

Authors: Adam Searby, Associate Professor Phil Maude and Dr Ian McGrath


Older adults are often described as “invisible addicts” due to difficulties in assessment and identification of substance us disorders. These difficulties are often as a result of different characteristics and presentations when compared to younger adults, including alcohol being the predominant substance used in this cohort. This paper reviews the literature concerning problematic alcohol consumption in older adults, arguing that all nurses are responsible for identifying substance use disorders in older adults. A search of the Scopus electronic journal database was performed to identify articles relevant to this discussion. Although specific treatment services are essential for addressing alcohol problems in older adults, assessment needs to be broader, with screening and identification of alcohol use disorders extending to medical nursing settings. Further research is required given the potential for an increase in problematic alcohol use as the older adult cohort expands; particularly as the ageing baby boomer demographic requires greater healthcare resources.

Keywords: alcohol, older adults, substance use disorder, addiction, comorbidity.

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