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BGS journal highlights lack of designated service provision for older addicts

September 21, 2019

Professor Peter Crome, past President of the BGS, said: "The recent Royal College of Psychiatrists report Our Invisible Addicts, which examined the nature and extent of substance misuse in older people raised questions about service provision.  The Equality Act 2010, makes it a legal obligation for the NHS to provide older people with the same level of healthcare provision, including assessment and treatment, as younger people.  To this end, all healthcare professionals must take addiction in older people more seriously.  Many think that nothing can be done to alter the course of addiction.  This is simply not the case.  In fact, research shows that treatment for older people produces results similar to, and sometimes superior to, younger people."

Services with which older people with substance problems come into contact - including addiction, mental health and general medical services - should be "older-person" friendly.  The editorial clarifies that this should include physical access, referrals, facilities and patient information.  Substance use can contribute to complex presentations in older people, including unexplained falls, changes in eating patterns, weight loss, irritability and agitation.  Furthermore, assessment and discussion of substance use needs to be routine rather than sporadic when older people come into contact with primary or secondary care professionals.  All healthcare professionals in contact with older people should have training in how to use appropriate assessment tools and need to be wary of attributing alcohol and drug misuse to other physical and mental disorders.  Assistance to approach specialists for appropriate treatment interventions can be vital.

Source: bgs