Prescription Drug Misuse among Older Adults

Author: David V. Flores, PhD, LMSW, MPH


Prescription drug misuse among those 65 and older is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. and will continue to rise over the next several decades with the aging “baby boomer” population, the cohort with the highest prevalence of substance use historically (Culberson et al., 2011; Institute of Medicine, 2012; Kalapatapu & Sullivan, 2010; Maxwell, 2011; National Institute on Aging, 2013).

Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Misuse Opioids Benzodiazepines Stimulants


Key Points

Increased prescription drug misuse and need for treatment is expected to rise given the aging of the baby boomer generation, the generation with the highest prevalence of substance use.

The true extent a prescription drug misuse and prescription drug diversion is unknown.

  Most commonly misused prescription drugs (Manchikanti, 2006):



The Consensus Panel on the Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) makes the following assessment recommendations: Several instruments have been developed and can be useful in the identification of prescription drug misuse:



The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment recommends the following non-pharmaceutical interventions for treating substance use disorders in older adults:



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