Alcohol and Substance Abuse for the Aged Population

Identification of the Problem

One of the primary challenges affecting the achievement of the core objective of Healthy People 2020 is the increase in alcohol and substance abuse among people above 50 years. This issue is related to other challenges such as poor cognitive welfare, suicide ideation, and high mortality and morbidity rates (Case & Deaton, 2015). The challenge of alcohol and substance abuse compromises the vision of Healthy People 2020 on having a society where people lead not only long lives but also healthy ones (Healthy People 2020, 2014). This paper evaluates this challenge of alcohol and drug abuse and the implementation of the substance abuse control programs

Overview of the Problem

Effective healthcare has reduced the mortality rates significantly. According to Case and Deaton (2015), quality treatment, behavioral, and social changes have lowered the mortality rates of people aged 45-54 by 44% between 1970 and 2013. The question, however, is whether the same can be said currently for the aging population. Von Borczyskowski, Vinnerljung, and Hjern (2013) note that alcohol and drug abuse is among the leading global burdens. In the United States, Kuerbis, Sacco, Blazer, and Moore (2014) note that 2.5 million aged adults have complications related to alcohol and substance abuse. Considering the economic effect, Kuerbis et al. (2014) note that the associated costs of alcoholism diagnosis have escalated to more than 60 billion USD annually. The intensity of alcohol and substance abuse is related to other challenges including the increase in chronic illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular conditions which account for the majority of health-related deaths.

Epidemiological Data

The aged population is estimated to increase to 20% by 2050 from the current 12%-16% globally (Lal & Pattanayak, 2017). This is related to the enhanced quality of care. However, the current issue of high alcohol and drug abuse for this population presents a challenge for a healthy nation in future. Lal and Pattanayak (2017) note that in the primary care setups, there are between 10%-15% of aged adults as a result of alcohol and substance abuse while among the hospitalized individuals, this population accounts for 30%. In the US, aged individuals above 65 years will account for more than 21% of the total population by 2030 (Kuerbis et al., 2014). However, present challenge is that 37% of this population is alcoholic and as a result, these individuals have at least one chronic illness which is a threat to leading a long and healthy life. It is therefore imperative to understand how this challenge can be mitigated effectively.

Healthy People 2020 Goals

Healthy People 2020is a scientific-based approach to promote quality of health for the entire American population. The 10-year agenda to enhance the US health reflects the input by diverse organizations and individual groups (Healthy People 2020, 2014). With the main vision being to ensure that people lead long and healthy lives, this is centered on four key goals. One of the goals is achieving high-quality and longer lives that are free from injuries, disability, preventable diseases and premature deaths. Another objective is the promotion of health equity, reduce disparities, and enhance the health of all populations. The third goal is to develop physical and social environments that foster for good health for all individuals. The last goal is to promote healthy behaviors, healthy development, and quality of life for every American citizen

Program plan

One of the most effective programs is the alcohol misuse: screening and behavioralcounseling interventions in adults. This program that is developed by US Preventative Service Task Force is centered on the substance abuse topic (U.S. Preventative Service Task Force, 2013). According to this program, clinicians have an obligation to screen adults including the aged for alcohol misuse and offer counseling services to reduce the associated risks. Being a B recommendation, among the main aspects that the counseling embarks on include the effects of alcohol abuse in one’s health such as the increased exposure to chronic illnesses. Through such programs, aged individuals are informed on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse which will ensure a further reduction of the mortality rates and promote a healthy aged population according to the Healthy People 2020 vision and mission.


Case, A., & Deaton, A. (2015). Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(49), 15078-15083.

Healthy People 2020 (2014). About Healthy People. Available from

Kuerbis, A., Sacco, P., Blazer, D. G., & Moore, A. A. (2014). Substance abuse among older adults. Clinics in geriatric medicine30(3), 629-654.

Lal, R., & Pattanayak, R. D. (2017). Alcohol use among the elderly: Issues and considerations. Journal of Geriatric Mental Health4(1), 4.

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