Treatment of Substance Abuse in Older Adults

  • Daniel L. Segal
  • Vincent B. Van Hasselt
  • Michel Hersen
  • Christopher King
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


Substance abuse is one of the most prevalent health care problems in the United States, accounting for a staggering toll on society and the afflicted individual’s physical and emotional well-being (Schilit & Gomberg, 1991). For older adults, in particular, abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a significant and burgeoning problem (Brody, 1982; Parette, Hourcade, & Parette, 1990; Ruben, 1992; Zimberg, 1987). Indeed, epidemiological research conducted over the past several years reveals that alcohol and substance abuse rank third among leading psychiatric problems in Americans 55 years and older, accounting for approximately 10 to 12% of those who receive services from mental health professionals (see Ticehurst, 1990; Zimberg, 1974). Several estimates of problem drinking or alcoholism in older adults have yielded prevalence rates in the general community of between 2 and 10% (cf. Fredriksen, 1992; Gomberg, 1982; Shuckit, 1977), and these most likely are underestimates. Prevalence estimates are even higher in certain settings, such as medical wards and nursing homes (Horton & Fogelman, 1991). Nevertheless, these data suggest that there are between 1 and 3 million older heavy alcohol users in the United States who suffer deleterious medical, emotional, and legal consequences. Further, these sequelae have an untoward impact at the societal level (e.g., high economic losses, increased health care costs, diminished work productivity) as well (Morey & Martin, 1989; Parette et al., 1990). Unfortunately, only 15% of alcoholics in this age group appear to receive some form of mental health treatment (King, Altpeter, & Spada, 1986; National Council on Alcoholism, 1981).


Substance Abuser Alcohol Abuse Behavioral Medicine Geriatric Psychiatry Dual Diagnosis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel L. Segal
    • 1
  • Vincent B. Van Hasselt
    • 2
  • Michel Hersen
    • 2
  • Christopher King
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Colorado at Colorado SpringsColorado SpringsUSA
  2. 2.Center for Psychological StudiesNova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Clinical NeuropsychologyBryn Mawr Rehabilitation HospitalMalvernUSA

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