Study: Addiction and U.S. Seniors

A weekly roundup on the latest in addiction science, medicine and care

By William Wagner

July 15, 2020

The prevalence of substance abuse among seniors. The dark web’s role in opioid distribution. Secret injection sites.

In this week’s installment of “From the Journals,” has probed the medical journals, institutes and associations in order to shine a light on these and other developing topics.

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):
Addiction and Seniors

There is no expiration date when it comes to addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost a million Americans who are 65 and older wrestle with a substance abuse disorder (SUD). Aging, it appears, brings on environmental and physiological changes that potentially make people more susceptible to substance abuse. Additionally, older adults are more frequently prescribed medications that can be addictive, including opioids. Alcohol, however, is the main culprit; more than 10% of individuals 65 and older are binge drinkers, according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

From The Journal of Addiction Medicine:
When Youth Chronic Illness Meets Addiction

What if you’re an adolescent with diabetes who also is in the throes of addiction? It can complicate things, to say the least. The Journal of Addiction Medicine recently took on this messy topic in an article titled “Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders in Youth With Chronic Medical Conditions: The Need for Integration of Addiction Treatment into Mainstream Medical Facilities.” Two case studies illuminate the importance of developing better ways to integrate treatment for addiction and chronic medical illnesses.

From the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):
The U.S. Needs More Doctors

Addiction advocacy is a never-ending battle, and there are plenty of people out there fighting the good fight every day. In early July, about 60 medical organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership explaining why the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 should be included in the next COVID-19 supplemental bill. The aim is to ensure the USA is equipped to handle public health crises as they arise, including those related to addiction. In part, the letter reads: “COVID-19 is just the latest example that the U.S., which has fewer physicians per capita than other comparable countries, is in dire need of more doctors.”

From Addiction Professional:
Dark Days for the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic continues to mutate insidiously. Derek Osborn, CPS, CPM, founder and CEO of, has studied the ways in which drug cartels are refining how they set up distribution channels on the dark web, a hidden part of the internet that isn’t indexed by search engines. He’s also examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of the dark web as a supply chain because, in his words, “there are so many people sitting at home with nothing to do.” Given the variety of contraband that funnels through the dark web—some of which is fairly obscure—he encourages clinicians to learn more about it.

From The Washington Post:
A New Twist in Mitigating Opioid Addiction

Secret injection sites? It seems like something out of a Tom Clancy thriller. In reality, however, it’s a form of harm reduction, as chronicled by The Washington Post in a July 10 article titled “America Needs to Reduce Soaring Overdoses: A Secret Supervised Injection Site May Show Us How” that’s based on research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. As the opioid epidemic continues to claim lives at an alarming rate, a site has been operating that allows opioid users to inject their drugs under the supervision of trained professionals. The goal is to reduce overdose fatalities, and the concept seems to have attracted interest from state governments. Lawmakers in California and Massachusetts are mulling over legalizing supervised injections.

Photo: JD Mason