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Sex Differences in Late-Life Substance-Use Disorders 

Sex Differences in Late-Life Substance-Use Disorders
Sex Differences in Late-Life Substance-Use Disorders

Elizabeth Evans

and Maria A. Sullivan

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date: 01 December 2021

Older women may be particularly vulnerable to substance abuse with their increased exposure to prescription drugs and a tendency to develop addiction and medical consequences of substance use more quickly than their male counterparts. Substance use in older women, however, often goes undetected and untreated by clinicians. It is, therefore, important to screen older women regularly for alcohol and prescription drug use and abuse, to ask screening questions in a non-judgemental manner, to be sensitive to potential slower processing times, and to utilize collateral information from family/caregivers when possible. We review the epidemiology of substances of abuse; discuss risk factors, comorbidities, illness course, and treatment; and focus on how these factors differ between women and men. The aim of this chapter is to help clinicians better identify substance abuse in older women, as well as to plan, tailor, and implement effective treatment interventions for this most vulnerable population.

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