Master of Science (MS)
Semester of Degree Completion
Crystal Duncan Lane
The increasing number of older adults in the United States, due in part to the Baby Boomer generation, means that there is also an increase in the number of older adults dealing with substance abuse problems. The compounded effects of multiple legal medications with alcohol, illicit drugs, or abused prescription drugs on the withdrawal process are likely to make delineating between legitimate medication side effects and withdrawal symptoms incredibly difficult for medical professionals working with older adults. With the average older adult legally using 17 medications from nine different medical professionals, the physical effects of substance abuse might easily go unnoticed.
To determine medical professionals' knowledge of substance abuse in older adults and how they assess it, this study focused on nursing students in central Illinois as well as other health care and social science professionals regarding substance abuse in the older adult population. The study sought to determine how nursing students' knowledge of substance abuse in older adults varies according to the type of nursing degree being pursued and their nursing focus, determine how nursing students' knowledge of substance abuse in older adults varies according to their progress in their degree program, and determine how nursing students' knowledge of substance abuse in older adults varies as a result of their previous experience working/spending time with older adults or person with substance abuse issues.
The study found that nurses and nursing students had less knowledge about older adults with substance abuse issues than any other profession. This is an alarming finding considering that nurses are often on the frontline in identification of substance abuse issues in older adults. The study also found that more time spent in both personal and professional interactions with older adults had no significant relation to overall knowledge of older adults with substance abuse issues. There is a necessity of acknowledgement that substance abuse in older adults is a growing issue, that there is a need for addiction treatment programs tailored to older adults, and that proper diagnostic measures of substance abuse symptoms in older adults are created as soon as possible. Future research should focus on the knowledge of physicians and other direct health care professionals working with older adults and sample from a more diverse population of medical and social science professionals. More research also needs to be done on the effectiveness of substance abuse diagnosis for older adults, and which, if any, methods of treatment are the most effective for this specific population.
Hawn, Rachael, "Substance Abuse in Older Adults: An Exploratory Study" (2014). Masters Theses. 1353.