Flinders addiction researchers warn of ‘silver tsunami’ for aged care

NCETA Director, Professor Ann Roache. The Centre is hosting the national 'Grey Matters' conference next week.
NCETA Director, Professor Ann Roache. The Centre is hosting a ‘Grey Matters’ national conference in Adelaide tomorrow (Wednesday, 1 April).

An ageing population increasingly using alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription medicine means testing times lie ahead for alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia, say researchers from Flinders University’s National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA).

These are among the issues being addressed at NCETA’s national ‘Grey Matters’ conference in Adelaide tomorrow (Wednesday, 1 April).

Professor Ann Roche, NCETA Director, said current international estimates indicating the number of older people with alcohol and other drug problems, or requiring treatment for a substance use disorder, will more than double from 2000 to 2020, are likely to be reflected in Australia.

In addition to the alcohol and drug treatment issues, Professor Roche warned that a wide range of other physical and mental health side effects which will also have to be dealt with.

“It’s not just about the numbers,” said Professor Roche. “Older people’s bodies don’t deal with alcohol and other drug use as well as younger people.

When older people seek treatment for their problems they often also have a range of other physical and mental health issues. This can complicate their care.

“There are three groups of older people who have alcohol and other drug problems in later life. The first group we call ‘the maintainers’, who have used substances for long periods of time without getting into difficulties.

“As they age, this use catches up with them because their bodies can’t cope.

“Then there are the ‘reactors’ who start problem use in older age in response to stressful events such as bereavement, job loss, marital breakdown or social isolation.

“The third group, ‘the survivors’, have had substance use problems for a long time and have reached older age.

“We also expect to see older people seeking treatment for different patterns of substance use problems, with an increasing number needing help as a result of their use of illicit drugs and prescribed medicines such as opioid pain killers and sedatives.”

Professor Roche said that these trends would require significant changes to how Australia provides alcohol and drug treatment services in the future.

Substance use problems among older Australians, and their implications, are to be the focus of a national Conference in Adelaide on 1 April 2015, at the Education Development Centre, 4 Milner Street, Hindmarsh, South Australia.

The Grey Matters National Conference: Responding to Alcohol and other Drug Problems among Older Australians will feature nationally renowned speakers.

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2 thoughts on “Flinders addiction researchers warn of ‘silver tsunami’ for aged care

  1. Dear professor Roach,
    The article above is great! I would have liked to attend the conference if only I’d known about it. I am a Casual teacher in the School of Nursing teaching NURS1003 Psycho Social at the moment and have taught Social Political for the last two years. All up I’ve been teaching part time for 4 years in the faculty in Cultural Safety and Sociology. I just love it as a semi retired person. Teaching with passion!
    I have a serious interest in this area of aged alcohol abuse. I attend Ala-non meetings(for relatives and friends of Alcoholics -you may know it already) and are a strong advocate for the education of alcohol abuse with nurses. We have to start somewhere.
    I would really like to join your organisation and go to events in the future. I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Regards Jan Hill
    Please let me know how I can do this. It’ll be so helpful for when I am teaching.

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