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SAMHSA Press Releases

Date February 9, 2006
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Retirees in Treatment More Likely to Abuse Alcohol than Drugs



Data from 29 states and other jurisdictions indicate that four out of five current retirees in substance abuse treatment needed treatment for alcohol as their primary substance of abuse in 2003. This is a far higher proportion reporting alcohol (80 percent of retirees in treatment) than for all other admissions to treatment in these states (44 percent). These findings were released today in a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) from continued analysis of the 2003 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

The states reporting data on retirees were Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

“Alcohol abuse among older adults is something few want to talk about or deal with,” said SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie. “Too often family members are ashamed of the problem and choose not to address it. Health care providers tend not to ask older patients about alcohol abuse if it wasn=t a problem in their lives in earlier years. Sometimes the symptoms are mistaken for those of dementia, depression, or other problems common to older adults. Unfortunately, too many older persons turn to alcohol as a comfort, following the death of a spouse, a divorce, retirement, or some other major life change, unaware that they are markedly affecting the quality of their lives.”

Only 5 percent of retirees in treatment in the 29 states reported use of opiates, either heroin or prescription narcotic pain medications, as their primary substance of abuse, compared to 13 percent of other admissions. They were also less likely to report cocaine (4 percent versus 14 percent for others); marijuana (3 percent versus 18 percent); or stimulants, including methamphetamine, (1 percent versus 6 percent) as their primary substance of abuse. Persons who were retired in 2003 and in substance abuse treatment were less likely to report a secondary substance of abuse (17 percent) than for other admissions (52 percent).

TEDS collects data on the approximately 1.8 million annual admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities, primarily those that receive some public funding. The report is available on the web at




SAMHSA, is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation’s substance abuse prevention, addictions, treatment, and mental health services delivery system.



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