Co-occurring substance abuse and depression aggravate symptoms in older adults

The importance of mental health as a key component of one’s overall well-being is amassing global support and awareness. This is primarily because of the fact that more and more people are getting aware of the close relationship between mental health and overall well-being. Slowly but surely the rough tides are turning in favor of those living with a mental disorder due to the above-mentioned reason. Compared to the earlier times, a new consciousness is rising that is tolerant and empathetic toward individuals who suffer from a mental illness.

Despite the increased awareness, certain categories of the population like older adults and aging people continue to remain largely neglected and ignored, particularly with regard to mental health. Living in an age when beauty and the youthful zeal have taken the front row, one may think very little of the phase when age debilitates vigor and spirit. In any given sphere of life, the old and the aging are often neglected. As far as attention from a mental health point of view is concerned, older adults are left outside the purview of the treatment due to the overlapping of the symptoms, thus increasing the risk of developing co-occurring disorders.

Timely interventions reduce the scope of developing dual diagnosis

A study conducted by the University of Georgia on drinking patterns and depression in older adults with multiple chronic health conditions (MCC) and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in October 2016, was one of the few studies that analyzed the ins and outs of dual diagnosis in older adults.

The study documented that older adults with MCC and depression are almost five times more susceptible to become problematic drinkers compared to older adults without depression. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), examined over 1,600 individuals classified as active drinkers between the ages 57 and 85 years. Some of the findings of the study are as follows:

  • In case of individuals who experienced the most adverse consequences because of drinking, about 66 percent reported suffering from MCC and about 28 percent reported of experiencing the symptoms of depression.
  • Of all, older adults with MCC and depression experienced the most consequences of active drinking.

The investigators of the study believe that by investing in effective staff training, screening, and referral for mental disorders and unhealthy alcohol consumption by health care providers while caring for older adults could play a pivotal role in encompassing the 4 million older adults believed to be suffering from dual diagnosis.

“There is sufficient evidence that even brief interventions delivered in medical-related settings can have a positive influence on reducing problem drinking among most older adults,” said Orion Mowbray, lead author of the study. He further elaborated, “These interventions can include screening for signs of depression in individuals with long-term health problems, engaging the individual in a conversation about the risks of problem drinking, and providing a referral for brief alcohol-related treatment.”

Learn to identify warning signs to avoid dual diagnosis

The marginalization of older adults in the domain of health care and other aspects of the society has left them increasingly vulnerable to a number of disorders, especially dual diagnosis. Therefore, the need of the hour is to ensure a holistic treatment, including screening, counseling, etc., to reduce the scope of negligence.

If you or your loved one suspect that a substance use disorder (SUD) or engagement in illicit substances is deteriorating your mental health and vice versa, it is imperative to seek professional help. The Dual Diagnosis Helpline assists in accessing the finest dual diagnosis programs that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-981-6047 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about the dual diagnosis facilities.

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