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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

CR165. Our Invisible Addicts

Price: £0.00

Approved: Jan 2011

Published: Jun 2011

Status: current

Number of pages: 60

Review by: 2016

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The proportion of older people in the population is increasing rapidly, as is the number of older people with substance use problems – such that substance misuse in older people is now a growing public health problem, with effects on health and social care services, and there is now a pressing need to address this.


A lack of awareness means that GPs and other healthcare professionals often overlook or discount the signs when an older person has a problem. This report highlights the scale of substance misuse in older people. It makes a series of key recommendations to influence the direction of future healthcare strategies.



  • Executive summary and recommendations
  • Introduction
  • Risk factors
  • Effects and complications
  • Assessment of substance misuse in older people
  • Treatment of addiction
  • Service models: implications for service development

Appendix 1: Assessment of substance misuse in older people

Appendix 2: Guidance for pharmacological treatment of substance problems in older people

Appendix 3: Model alcohol misuse services for older people

Appendix 4: Online resources


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