Substance Use Disorders Among Older Populations: What Role Do Race and Ethnicity Play in Treatment and Completion?


Research that explores the role of substance use treatment among older individuals is scarce. This paper offers a historical investigation of admissions and discharges for treatment episodes over the past two decades across race, ethnicity, gender, and age. Our results suggest that although older individuals are not typically associated with risky behavior, they are increasingly seeking treatment for substance use disorders. We find that substance use treatment admissions for people aged 50 and older have persistently increased over our sample period. Our findings also indicate that, on average, Black (relative to white) admissions across all ages are less likely to complete treatment and more likely to have their treatment terminated by a treatment facility. We also find some evidence that Hispanic admissions are relatively less likely to complete treatment across all age groups. Hispanics over 50 years old are also more likely to terminate treatment. Interestingly, among younger individuals in the most recent years of our sample, the disparity between minority completion rates has improved. Lastly, we find that males (relative to females) are more likely to complete a substance use treatment program but no more likely to have their treatment terminated by a substance use treatment facility.

The full study is available in Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.