A new study of participants in opioid treatment programs in New York City reports a notable shift in the demographics of this population in the past 15 years. The study, “Demographic Trends of Adults in New York City Opioid Treatment Programs—An Aging Population,” reports that “In 1996, the majority of adults in opioid treatment were less than 40 years of age, while in 2012, the majority age group in opioid treatment were those 50 to 59 (7.8% to 35.9%), with large increases in those over the age of 60 (1.5% to 12.0%).” In addition, the race and ethnicity of program participants has become increasingly white, in the 60+ population, and increasingly Hispanic among the 50 to 59 cohort. The research was undertaken collaboratively by investigators from New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), and NYU’s School of Medicine (NYUSoM).
The team’s report, published in the Journal of Substance Use and Misuse, noted that the increase in older patients in treatment occurred in the context of an overall 7.8% decrease in the total population in treatment, suggesting the emergence of a new epidemic of older adults with substance abuse disorders. This population, and its attendant burden of geriatric conditions and chronic disease comorbidities will present new challenges for care and treatment. From the report conclusions: “Future studies are needed to better understand the specific and unique health needs of this growing population from a geriatric perspective. Furthermore, new models of care are needed to address what is certain to be increasing levels of morbidity as this population ages, further emphasizing the importance of integrating chronic disease management and care processes with substance abuse services.”
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Read a news story about the study and conclusions here.
The journal article may be read here.