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Deaths from substance abuse surged among older US adults in 2020


Deaths from substance abuse, especially alcohol and opioids, surged among older Americans in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. This is because the lockdown has disrupted routines, spreading isolation and fear.

with alcohol death from opioids It was much less common among older people than in others. middle-aged and older, And rates were rising in all groups for years. But another data point in a long list of pandemic woes, the marked rise has taken government researchers by surprise.

death from opioids A 53% year-over-year increase among Americans over the age of 65 in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Alcohol-related deaths in this age group have already increased since he was a decade old, Up 18 percent.

“Although the mortality rate from alcohol in older adults is much lower than in younger adults, it’s not as high as in young adults,” said Ellen Crumarlow, a health statistician at the Center and lead author of the report that analyzed the death certificate data. The change caught our eye.”

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids account for less than 1% of deaths in people over the age of 65, Dr. Kramarow said. “But the curvilinear shape jumped out at us,” she said.

Older people are more susceptible to the adverse effects of alcohol and drugs because age-related physiological changes slow metabolism and excretion, increasing the risk of toxicity. Researchers have found that the lower the dose, the greater the effect.

Alcohol and opioids may interact poorly with prescription medications that many older people take for common conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and mood disorders. It can connect, exacerbate underlying medical conditions, and exacerbate cognitive decline.

Substance abuse by older adults is often overlooked by health care providers who rarely refer these patients for treatment. Many facilities that provide rehabilitation services tailor their programs to younger generations. Older patients have different needs and may feel uncomfortable being treated with someone the same age as their children or grandchildren.

Many baby boomers struggle with addiction from a young age. Some have fallen off the wagon after retirement or during a pandemic, when suddenly they have more free time, little structure, and no treatment due to shutdowns or fear of infection.

Mortality points to a widespread problem of substance abuse among the elderly. Alcohol and drug use usually declines with age, but according to government data, about one million adults over the age of 65 have a substance use disorder. Approximately 3% use marijuana, and 1 in 10 she is defined as having 5 or more cups at a time for men and 4 or more cups for women.

“This is a covert group that is often ignored,” said Dr. Frederick Blow, a professor of psychiatry and director of the University of Michigan Addiction Center.

Dr. Blow said relatively few older Americans receive treatment. Families and spouses are perplexed, and providers tend to be less proactive about referring older patients to rehabilitation, he added.

“Younger people get treatment because their family members give them an ultimatum or their employer identifies a problem, but the most common way older people get treatment is through the criminal justice system,” he said. Told. .

Lokiel P., a 72-year-old man from Albany, N.Y., who asked not to give his last name, began drinking when he was 18 (then legal age) and smoked marijuana and used hallucinogens while in college. I started doing things.

He was in and out of therapy all his life. However, he was sober for eight years when his retirement caused a relapse.

“I never smoked marijuana before or during work, only when I got home,” he said. After his retirement, however, he said, “I smoked marijuana all day and drank a pint of vodka every day. I started with half a pint at noon and two pints in the evening.”

He said he was miserable and that his wife wanted to leave him.

After four years of sobriety, he became a recovery peer advocate for Senior Hope, an Albany outpatient clinic for people over the age of 50 who struggle with substance abuse.

According to Senior Hope CEO Nicole S. McFarland, the program is the only one in New York that provides non-intensive care for people of that age group outside of a hospital.

Treatment groups are small, which is favored by older patients, and facilitators speak loudly and slowly to accommodate patients with hearing and cognitive impairments.

New federal data provides detailed insight into who is most at risk. Men are more likely to suffer deaths from alcohol, and in 2020, the death rate for men between the ages of 65 and her 74 was more than three times higher than her for women of the same age.

Alcohol-related death rates for men over the age of 75 were four times higher than for women of the same age, according to a new report.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives aged 65 and over had the highest age-adjusted alcohol-related mortality rates in 2020, up nearly 50% from 2019. This figure was more than double his death rate among older Hispanics. American.

White Americans had the next highest mortality rate, blacks had the lowest numbers, and Asian Americans had the lowest death rates. died in

About 5,000 elderly people died from drug overdoses. However, the figure shows that drug-related deaths have tripled hers in the past two decades, and the increase has accelerated in men in recent years.

Among men age 65 and older, drug overdose mortality is highest among black men compared to men of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Among women, black women between the ages of 65 and 74 have the highest overdose mortality rates, and white women over the age of 75 have the highest mortality rates.

Aging baby boomers — the Woodstock generation — viewed such substance use as a moral weakness and were more exposed to alcohol and drugs than previous generations who were less accustomed to marijuana, Blow said. said Dr.

The fraying and shutdown of social networks in the first part of the pandemic exacerbated substance abuse in the same way that access to cannabis and alcohol increased. I was able to get it.

“Add that to the feeling of loneliness and isolation, feeling like it’s the end of the world in a way, and it’s inspired people to start using more stuff than ever before,” he said.




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