AHRQ Addresses Unhealthy Alcohol and Opioid Use as Growing Problems in Older Adults


The Generations Journal of the American Society on Aging published a special issue addressing the growing problem of substance use in older adults. This quarterly journal focuses on the most useful and current knowledge about a specific topic in the field of aging, with emphasis on practice, research, and policy.

Among the issues addressed in the journal are the growing problems of  unhealthy alcohol and opioid use  among older adults, who are at increased risk for harms from both alcohol and opioid use. The Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) was invited to submit an article on the Agency’s work in this area. The authors, Sebastian T. Tong, M.D., M.P.H., Elisabeth U. Kato, M.D., M.R.P., Mary P. Nix, M.S., P.M.P., and Arlene S. Bierman, M.D., M.S., discuss the importance of addressing these issues in primary care. They also discuss evidence-based interventions that could help primary care clinicians address substance use disorder in their patients, but that are poorly implemented.

The authors provide information on two AHRQ initiatives that support these efforts to implement evidence. These initiatives are the AHRQ Unhealthy Alcohol Use Initiative and the AHRQ Opioids and Older Adults Initiative, which support primary care practices in implementing evidence to address unhealthy alcohol and opioid use in older adults, respectively. The authors also point to the AHRQ Academy for Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care, which provides resources that support these efforts.

In conclusion, the authors state: “AHRQ’s work in increasing the capacity of primary care practices to manage unhealthy alcohol use and opioid use, misuse, and abuse will provide important lessons on how to do this effectively, while improving the care of many older adults across the nation.”[1]


[1] Tong ST, Kato EU, Nix MP, Bierman AS. Help for primary care practitioners in addressing older adult alcohol and opioid use. Generations Journal. 2021; 44(4). https://generations.asaging.org/help-doctors-treating-elder-alcohol-and-opioid-use. Accessed February 4, 2021.