Substance Abuse Among Older Adults: Context, Assessment, and Treatment

  • Justine McGovernEmail author
  • Stephanie Sarabia
Part of the Advances in Mental Health and Addiction book series (AMHA)


Through the lens of a community case study, the authors identify causes and consequences of substance misuse among clients over age 65 residing in the Washington Heights-Inwood neighborhood of New York City and suggest ways social workers can assess and treat affected clients to promote well-being through the life span. Currently, demand for helping professionals competent in both gerontology and substance abuse is going unmet. This chapter identifies factors contributing to this service gap and proposes ways to improve workforce preparedness, service provision, and, as a result, client outcomes. Strategies include broadening social work education goals, increasing research inclusivity, developing policies that support clients throughout the life course, and implementing innovative recruitment strategies to promote interest in fields of gerontology and geriatrics among helping professionals. Beyond providing essential information about the scope and impact of substance misuse among older adults, the chapter proposes a theoretical framework to deepen understanding of the issue as it affects this population. Moreover, it provides guidelines for assessment and treatment of substance misuse among adults over age 65 based on a brief intervention model, SBIRT for older adults. Ultimately, the chapter aims to raise awareness about a developing crisis affecting vulnerable clients and offers ways of improving service to these clients and promoting client well-being.


Substance misuse Elderly Urban Gerontology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WorkLehman CollegeBronxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkRamapo CollegeMahwahUSA

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