Coalition of experts create new guidelines for older adults with substance use disorders

WINNIPEG — Older adults, such as the Baby Boomer Generation, may be using substances to cope with the challenges of aging.

Better support for that age group could be coming as a coalition of addiction and aging experts are publishing new guidelines to help those who are more vulnerable to negative outcomes.

“As people get older, if they continue to use at the same levels that they were while they were younger, they’ll run into problems,” said Dr. Peter Butt, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

“There are other things that they can get engaged in and reverting to chemical coping is going to be problematic and interfere with their ability to enjoy the time that they have.”

The Canadian Coalition on Senior’s Mental Health has put out national clinical guidelines for older addicts and four substances; alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, and cannabis.

These guidelines cover treatment and support those with substance use disorders.

Butt who worked on the alcohol guidelines wants to see the low-risk drinking guidelines – two drinks a day most days for women and three for men — cut in half for people over 65, and even younger.

“Then as they age, progressively decrease the amount that they drink over time, so that they’re having less alcohol and less prone to falls and consequences from mixing alcohol with medication.”

Butt notes society needs to push back against the notion that older adults need substances to keep them happy because getting older isn’t a pleasant experience.

Butt encourages anyone who is struggling with substance use to seek help, adding there are positive outcomes in older age groups.

The development of the guidelines was funded by Health Canada.

-with files from CTV’s Michelle Gerwing