New Report shows that Opioid Misuse Increases among Older Adults

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A new spotlight report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that opioid misuse among adults aged 50 or older in 2014 was higher than 2002. The misuse of opioids includes either the use of heroin or the nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers.

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 9.5 million adults aged 18 or older misused opioids in the past year. About 2.0 percent of adults aged 50 or older misused opioids in the past year, while 8.1 percent of young adults aged 18 and 25 misused opioids in the past year.

The good news is that opioid misuse among young adults decreased from 11.5 percent in 2002 to 8.1 percent in 2014. However, the NSDUH data suggest opioid misuse is increasing among older adults. Opioid misuse among older adults increased from 1.1 percent in 2002 to 2.0 percent in 2014.

“The high rates of comorbid illnesses in older populations and the potential for drug interactions has profound implications for the health and well-being of older adults who continue to misuse opioids” said director for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Dr. Kimberly Johnson. "These findings highlight the need for prevention programs for all ages as well as to establish improved evidence-based treatment, screening, and appropriate referral services.”

HHS has identified five specific strategies to address the opioid crisis: improving access to treatment and recovery services including the full range of medication-assisted treatment; promoting targeted availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs; strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health and data and reporting; providing support for cutting edge research on pain and addiction, and; advancing better practices for pain management.

The NSDUH Spotlight Report: Opioid Misuse increases Among Older Adults, is based on combined 2002-2014 data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. The report is available at:

As part of the Department’s opioid-related efforts, SAMHSA provides information for communities and local governments for addressing opioid misuse; , and

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 07/26/2017