In the past two decades, the rate of drug overdose deaths for adults aged 65 and over has more than tripled. From 2019 to 2020, the rate involving alcohol increased from 17.0 deaths to 20.1 per 100,000 population, and the rate involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (such as fentanyl) increased from 1.9 deaths to 2.9 per 100,000 population.1, Despite the increasing drug and alcohol deaths among older adults in the United States, substance misuse and substance use disorders among this age group remain overlooked and undertreated.
The Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality’s substance use initiatives have resources that can help primary care clinicians with effectively identifying and treating substance misuse and substance use disorders in older adults.
- EvidenceNOW: Managing Unhealthy Alcohol Use has tools and resources for managing unhealthy alcohol use in primary care, including reports, issue briefs, and facts sheets specific to older adults.
- Management of Opioid Use and Misuse in Older Adults has developed several products and resources to improve the prevention and management of opioid use, misuse, and opioid use disorder among older adults, including these opioid and pain management tools and resources.
For more information on preventing, identifying, and treating substance use for older adults, please see:
- National Institute on Drugs and Addiction - Substance Use in Older Adults DrugFacts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain — United States, 2022
- Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration- TIP 26: Treating Substance Use Disorder in Older Adults (Updated 2020)
 Kramarow EA, Tejada-Vera B. Drug overdose deaths in adults aged 65 and over: United States, 2000–2020. NCHS Data Brief, no 455. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2022. Available from https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:121828. Accessed December 8, 2022.