Binge drinking and substance use by the elderly in Israel

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Background: Most Israeli research on the problem of alcohol and substance use focuses on adolescents, undergraduate students, and the adult population up to age 40. However, for the elderly substance abuse has hardly been researched. The present study seeks to expand knowledge about attitudes toward and patterns of alcohol and substance consumption by the elderly, focusing on the case of Israel. Method: A structured quantitative questionnaire on attitudes, usage patterns, and quality of life was administered to a convenience sample of 302 elderly individuals: 157 men and 145 women. The age of the participants ranged from 65 to 93, with a mean age of 74.3 (SD= 8.75). Results: Participants were asked about their patterns of use of cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs: 47% of the elderly reported drinking alcohol, 23% binge drinking, and 15.9% smoked cigarettes in the preceding month. In terms of substance use, 3.4% used methylphenidate without a prescription and 2.1% used cannabis without a prescription in the preceding year. There were significant gender differences in cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. The elderly were found to have a non-permissive attitude toward the use of substances. A significant negative correlation was found between binge drinking and the quality of life parameter. Conclusions: Awareness-raising programs should be initiated for the problem of elderly substance use, with a special focus on alcohol consumption. A preventive counseling-therapeutic model for the elderly should be developed and training for professionals working with the elderly should be offered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
JournalIsrael Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


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