22.06.11 Addaction responds to new report on substance misuse among ageing population
A new report has called for the NHS to adapt to the 'growing problem' of drug and alcohol use among older people.
The report, the first by the Older People’s Substance Misuse Working Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (www.rcpysch.ac.uk), warns that not enough is being done to tackle substance misuse among our aging population. This, it claims, means they are becoming society’s “invisible addicts”.
The Working Group have made a series of key recommendations in their report, including that:
- Every person over the age of 65 is screened for substance misuse as part of a routine health check with their GP.
- The government issues separate guidance on alcohol consumption for older people. Current recommended ‘safe limits’ are based on work in younger adults and, since there are physiological and metabolic changes associated with aging, these limits are too high for older people. Evidence suggests the upper ‘safe limit’ for older people is 1.5 units per day or 11 units per week.
- Public health campaigns are developed to specifically target older people at risk of drug and alcohol misuse
- All doctors, nurses, psychologists, social care workers and allied health professionals are given suitable training in substance use disorders in older people.
Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive of Addaction, has welcomed the recommendations made by the Royal College. He says:
"Substance misuse is not solely the preserve of the young. At Addaction, we help and support people who have developed substance misuse problems later in life, and people who are only now, in their fifties and sixties, are seeing the physical impact of this misuse. Our experience suggests that those who seek support are only a small proportion of those who need it. If we are to increase this number, we need to look at support and help differently.
Our experience is that many of these people are retired, and living alone due to divorce, bereavement and their children moving away. This isolation is compounded by alcohol, but also by feelings of embarrassment and social perceptions. Particularly those of older women with alcohol problems, but with men also. That isolation not only keeps people in the house, it prevents them from getting help, and leaves their problems hidden away.
We regularly meet people who have expressed how difficult it was to make the first step to seek support and as a result many older people effectively fall through the treatment net. This is why services designed specifically for this age group are so important. For Addaction this means working right in the heart of communities, on an 'outreach' basis, visiting the people who need help, rather than asking them to come in".