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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Substance abuse treatment initiation among older adults in the GET SMART program: effects of depression and cognitive status


This study examines how individual patient characteristics predict substance abuse treatment initiation among older adults, in an investigation based on the behavioral health service use model. Analyses tested the impact of demographic factors, substance abuse symptoms, depression and cognitive status on subsequent treatment initiation. The sample included 250 older male veterans screened for substance abuse problems during inpatient medical treatment, who also participated in a clinical evaluation for substance abuse treatment. Measures included demographics and CAGE alcohol screening score. A subset of patients also completed the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test-Geriatric Version (MAST-G), Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D), and Folstein Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE). Patients who initiated treatment following evaluation had more years of education, better cognitive status, and more symptoms of substance abuse and depression, compared with patients who did not initiate treatment. In logistic regression analysis, CAGE and MMSE scores independently predicted treatment initiation. Findings contribute to the understanding of how clinical characteristics of older adults affect substance abuse treatment initiation.

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