NYU study finds adults aged 50-59 now largest age group in opioid treatment programs

November 23, 2015

Recent years have seen a change in drug use patterns, especially for older adults, with an increase in their admission to substance abuse treatment and increased injection drug use among those over the age of 50. Yet, there has been little research regarding the epidemiology, health status, and functional impairments in the aging population of adults accessing opioid treatment.

Of the few studies on this population to date, most have been based off of a limited dataset that only accounts for treatment admissions, and therefore may not fully capture the utilization of substance abuse treatment over time. Furthermore the treatment episode dataset (TEDS), defines an older adult as aged over 50 or 55, and may not fully demonstrate how the population is aging.

Given the gaps in existing data, researchers affiliated with New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), and NYU's School of Medicine (NYUSoM) sought to elucidate age trends for opioid treatment programs, with an emphasis on older adults, in a new study published in the Journal of Substance Use & Misuse. The investigation focuses on such trends in New York City, as it has one of the largest methadone treatment systems in the U.S. and consistently provides access to treatment in the public system.

The study, "Demographic Trends of Adults in New York City Opioid Treatment Programs- An Aging Population," used data collected by New York State's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). OASAS provides more detailed information on the treatment population than what is available nationally through the TEDS dataset, allowing the NYU researchers to characterize basic demographic, self-reported other substance use, and self-reported physical impairments.

"Most notably," says Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, an instructor at NYUSoM and the study's principle investigator, "we found a pronounced age trend in those utilizing opioid treatment programs from 1996 to 2012, with adults aged 50 and older becoming the majority treatment population."

Specifically, individuals aged 50-59 which made up 7.8% (N= 2,892) of the total patient population in 1996, accounted for 35.9% (N= 12,301) of the population in 2012. Patients aged 60-69, also saw a dramatic increase in numbers, originally constituting 1.5% of patients (N= 558) to 12.0% of patients (N= 4,099).

"These increases are especially striking, considering there was about a 7.6% decrease in the total patient population over that period of time, and suggests that we are facing a never before seen epidemic of older adults with substance use disorders and increasing numbers of older adults in substance abuse treatment. Unfortunately there is a lack of knowledge about the burden of chronic diseases and geriatric conditions or the cognitive and physical function of this growing population" says Dr. Han.

During the same period, those age 40 and below, who in 1996 accounted for 56.2% of patients (N= 20,804), were a fraction of that in 2012, responsible for 20.5% of total patients (N= 7,035).

There were also notable shifts with regards to race and ethnicity. During this period older adults over the age of 60 were increasingly white, with a 10.3% increase in representation, while there was a 13.8% decrease in the percentage of black patients. There was a small increase in the Hispanic constituency from 35.0% in 1996 to 38.8% in 2012. These trends, however, were different for those aged 50-59. In this age group there were smaller decreases in both the white (3.5%) and black (5.9%) populations, and a larger increase in Hispanic patients (9.2%). However, when looking at all age groups during this period, the overall white population remained steady (-0.4%), with a slight decrease in black patients (3.5%) and a slight increase in Hispanic patients (3.4%).

Researchers believe the increase in older adults utilizing opioid treatment programs is likely to continue into the next decade. Further studies are required to better understand the specific and unique health needs of this growing population from a geriatric perspective. More research is also need to understand how other substance use can complicate care and how to address the changing ethnic and racial demographics of this population in New York City.
Researcher Affiliations: Benjamin H. Han, MD, MPH1*; Soteri Polydorou, MD2; Rosie Ferris, MPH1; Caroline Blaum, MD, MS1; Stephen Ross, MD2; Jennifer McNeely, MD, MS3.
1 NYU School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics.
2 NYU School of Medicine, Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
3 NYU School of Medicine, Department of Population Health and the Department of Medicine.

Declaration of Interest: Gail Dorn, MS1 and Dawn Lambert-Wacey, MA1 provided the aggregated dataset used in this study, and assisted in the editing of the article.

1NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Division of Outcome Management and System Information, 1450 Western Ave, Albany, NY 12203-3526


The mission of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) is to end the HIV and HCV epidemics in drug using populations and their communities by conducting transdisciplinary research and disseminating its findings to inform programmatic, policy, and grass roots initiatives at the local, state, national and global levels. CDUHR is a Core Center of Excellence funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant #P30 DA011041). It is the first center for the socio-behavioral study of substance use and HIV in the United States and is located at the New York University College of Nursing. For more information, visit http://www.cduhr.org.

About NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center, is one of the nation's premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research, and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of four hospitals--Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; Rusk Rehabilitation; the Hospital for Joint Diseases, the Medical Center's dedicated inpatient orthopaedic hospital; and Hassenfeld Children's Hospital, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children's health services across the Medical Center--plus the NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. The Medical Center's tri-fold mission to serve, teach, and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education, and research. For more information, go to http://www.NYULMC.org, and interact with us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

About New York University College of Nursing

NYU College of Nursing is a global leader in nursing education, research, and practice. It offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science and Post-Master's Certificate Programs, a Doctor of Philosophy in Research Theory and Development, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. For more information, visit https://nursing.nyu.edu/

New York University

Related Aging Articles from Brightsurf:

Surprises in 'active' aging
Aging is a process that affects not only living beings.

Aging-US: 'From Causes of Aging to Death from COVID-19' by Mikhail V. Blagosklonny
Aging-US recently published ''From Causes of Aging to Death from COVID-19'' by Blagosklonny et al. which reported that COVID-19 is not deadly early in life, but mortality increases exponentially with age - which is the strongest predictor of mortality.

Understanding the effect of aging on the genome
EPFL scientists have measured the molecular footprint that aging leaves on various mouse and human tissues.

Muscle aging: Stronger for longer
With life expectancy increasing, age-related diseases are also on the rise, including sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass due to aging.

Aging memories may not be 'worse, 'just 'different'
A study from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences adds nuance to the idea that an aging memory is a poor one and finds a potential correlation between the way people process the boundaries of events and episodic memory.

A new biomarker for the aging brain
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research (BDR) in Japan have identified changes in the aging brain related to blood circulation.

Scientists invented an aging vaccine
A new way to prevent autoimmune diseases associated with aging like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease was described in the article.

The first roadmap for ovarian aging
Infertility likely stems from age-related decline of the ovaries, but the molecular mechanisms that lead to this decline have been unclear.

Researchers discover new cause of cell aging
New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works.

Deep Aging Clocks: The emergence of AI-based biomarkers of aging and longevity
The advent of deep biomarkers of aging, longevity and mortality presents a range of non-obvious applications.

Read More: Aging News and Aging Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.