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Epidemiology of Late-Life Substance Use

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Even though alcohol misuse is often underreported and thus underestimated in later life, epidemiological work suggests that alcohol problems are common among older adults. For instance, the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 48.0% of adults ages 60 to 64 had consumed alcohol in the past month, with 35.2% currently reporting nonbinge or nonheavy use, 10.1% reporting bingeing behavior, and 2.7% reporting heavy use (Office of Applied Studies 2007). Although rates of use were lower for those age 65 or older, they were nonetheless significant: 38.4% of respondents reported past-month alcohol use (30.8% nonbinge or nonheavy use, 6.0% bingeing, 1.6% heavy use). With respect to alcohol abuse or dependence, epidemiological census-based work estimates that 2.4% of older men and 0.4% of older women meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse, whereas an additional 0.4% and 0.13% of older men and older women, respectively, meet criteria for alcohol dependence (Grant et al. 2004).

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