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There are 8 units in this course. Three of the Units are scheduled to occur over a two week time frame. All other units are designed to be completed within one week (Monday to Sunday). Everything you need for the course is available through our SOCW 356 CourseSpaces site.  We do not use a formal course text. 

Tips For Navigating The SOCW 356 CourseSpaces webpages 

The University has recently upgraded the CourseSpaces CMS to a new version. Most things are the same but several of the navigational tools look at little different. For example, changes have been made to the calendar and webmail tools. 

Please review the course home page and read the Course Outline as soon as possible (it is posted under "Course Resources"). 

The best way to access the material for all units is to click on each topic under the Course Menu (located on the left hand side of the course home page). By the way, do not get confused between the words "Topic" and "Unit".  The Topic language is standard to the CourseSpaces platform but I prefer to use the term Unit. 

I have tried to provide clear instructions on 'what to do and by when' each week on Detailed Instructions for the Unit Learning Activities found under the tab for each Topic. 

The Narrative Essay (assignment two) 

Details on what is expected in the Narrative Essay can be found in the documents posted under Unit 4. 

During the term you are expected to an active learner and to share your perspective with others in the course. As already mentioned, there are three units that involve required, time sensitive, and graded small  group work (Assigned Discussion Topics One, Two and Three). Other units have opportunities to engage in larger class sized environments through the 'General Discussion Forums'.   

NOTE: You must have access to the internet and the course website throughout the term.  Full participation in all Units is required to pass the course.

You are also responsible for making sure that your computer software has the capacity to access the various multi-media resources used in the course. Do this technical check right away and contact the helpdesk if you require assistance. 

The expectations for this unit  will require you to:

  1. access and listen to an mp3 audio file. 

Note: a secondary link to the podcast has been added under the Unit 2 topic in case the link imbedded in the Detailed Instructions to the Learning Activities fails to load. 

  1. answer a set of study questions and enter your responses in your Course Workbook (Remember, this is your personal learning tool - it is not submitted to the instructor),
  2. engage in interactive dialogue within your small group and
  3. submit a written synthesis of this learning activity to your instructor.

New to CourseSpaces? Please review Student CourseSpaces Orientation Video:

Please be aware that while the CourseSpaces course site is password-protected, administrative staff and other UVic faculty have access to this site. All student content in UVic CourseSpaces courses are automatically archived on a UVic server for one year from the end date of the course.

Please do not send CourseSpaces Mail to UVic administrative staff. Contact UVic admin staff (SOCW staff, TIL Help, etc.) via email or telephone found under Technical Help.


The global populace is on the rise and according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in Canada the number of older adults increased from 2.7 million in 1986 to 4.8 million in 2010 (Azulai, 2014) . By the year 2036, it is expected that approximately 25% of the population of Canada will be sixty-five years of age and older (Azulai, 2014). Studies reveal that elderly people use substances that are both prescribed and non-prescribed and that which is both legal and illegal. Elderly people most frequently consume alcohol, nicotine and cannabis. Although the prevalence of substance use is lower among elderly people than other age groups, they are at an increased risk of failing health due to the use of non-prescription substance abuse. This essay aims at providing an insight to the use of substance abuse among the elderly and recommends ways by which one can prevent substance abuse among older adults.

A sense of financial security and social security, stability in life, physical wellness and health, preserving social contacts, engaging with activities that stimulate the mind and the body and having a sense of purpose in life all aid in successful ageing in individuals. Absence of these factors leads to substance abuse. The plethora of factors due to which elderly people resort to substance abuse include social isolation that results in depression, sudden changes in lifestyle, for example retirement and a decline in physical health.

Retirement often leads to substance abuse as retirement leads to reduction of work, lessening of social contacts and an increase of time meant for leisure (Azulai, 2014). Among some elderly people, these changes can bring about depression and reduce a sense of well-being, especially when retirement is perceived to have happened too early. Individuals, who have a limited social circle, can resort to substance abuse post-retirement.

Physical health among elderly people might also lead to substance abuse. Poor medical conditions and having chronic physical illnesses increases the risk of using non-medical use of prescription drugs. Illnesses like chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia increases the potential to abuse prescription drugs especially drugs like benzodiazepines, skeletal muscle relaxants and opiate analgesics (Azulai, 2014).

Social Isolation is another factor for substance abuse. Loneliness leads to alcohol abuse. Living alone at home contributes to the use of non-prescription drugs among elderly people. Marital status also plays a factor in increases substance abuse with those being widowed more likely to consume alcohol, nicotine and cannabis (Boudini, 2013).

Studies reveal that the effects of smoking tobacco are more severe in elderly people. Older Canadians were also likelier to be more dependent on nicotine as compared to younger Canadians (Boudini, 2013). Binge drinking is another problem among older Canadians as are prescription drugs such as pain relievers and sedatives. These findings are integral to understanding the effects of alcohol on the aging brain and the consequences of substance abuse among the elderly people.

Drug abuse leads to a plethora of negative consequences on the human body of an elderly person. As individuals grow older, cognitive functions like vocabulary and verbal skills remain stable. However, substance abuse of drugs like ketamine, tends to impair language and lead to a disordered thought process (Mapoma, 2014). Memory is another cognitive function that declines with age. Excessive consumption of alcohol has a detrimental effect on the working memory of an elderly person. Drugs like cocaine and ecstasy tend to impair declarative memory of an elderly person by its tendency to interfere with the ability to recall and store memories. A plethora of drugs like cannabis, opioids, cocaine also have a detrimental effect on executive functions like planning, reasoning, shifting tasks, impulse control, abstract thinking and problem solving on older adults (Mapoma, 2014). Substance use in older adults also affects the grey matter in the brain. For instance, cannabis use is associated with a reduction in bilateral orbitofrontal cortex while use of cocaine leads to a decrease in grey matter. Aging also causes changes in white matter integrity and studies revealed that alcohol, heroin and cannabis cause disruption in white matter integrity in elderly people (Boudini, 2013). Use of cannabis regularly, also leads to memory loss in elderly people. Thus, problematic use of drugs places an additional stress on the already frail and vulnerable system of the elderly and reduces the ability of the body to deal with the consequences of aging (Mapoma, 2014). This additional stress and reduced ability of the body is exacerbated by substance abuse. Harmful effects of drug abuse on the elderly include death, hospitalization, accidents, falls, changes in the nervous system, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system especially the liver and renal system making elderly people more physiologically vulnerable to the detrimental effects of substance abuse. Drug abuse also leads to a higher mortality hazard ratio. It is highest in people who use opiates, followed by people who take sedatives, cocaine and cannabis (Boudini, 2013).

Aging makes the human brain more vulnerable to the harmful effects of drugs. Substance use among the elderly people puts an additional stress on the vulnerable body systems of older adults and reduces the ability of the individual to deal with the aging process. Unfortunately, addressing the problem of substance abuse in older adults is laced with difficulties. More often than not, doctors dismiss the symptoms of substance abuse as the symptoms of growing age. In addition, the social isolation experienced by the elderly people leads to fewer opportunities for monitoring by family and friends (Ranzijn, 2010). As the social networks of the elderly people continue to grow smaller, most elderly people are hesitant to talk about the issue of substance abuse with their family and friends because they do not want to start a conflict with the few relationships they have left.

Elderly people can live healthy and long lives during recovery. Families, healthcare providers and caregivers can prevent substance use among older adults by incorporating successful ageing strategies. Efforts should be made to reduce physical and mental illness, increase social development and enhance psychological well-being of a person. An increase in the levels of social support and engaging in self-efficacy might lead to positive psychological traits in an individual thereby curbing the desire to resort to substance abuse. Caregivers can preserve substance abuse by increasing social engagement and by promoting a healthy lifestyle ensuring that the elderly individual resorts to walking or moderate exercise and engage in various activities that lead to cognition such as board games and crossword puzzles (Ranzijn, 2010).

Healthcare providers while talking to an elderly person should enquire beyond his physical health since psychological factors also play an important part in contributing to substance abuse. One should carry out screening process taking into account the concerns of elderly people regarding stigma. Screening should be carried out during routine health checks and hospitalizations, when mental or physical problems arise, or if an elderly person is suffering from immense mental stress. A comprehensive analysis of elderly people should be carried out taking into account a medical history pertaining to substance abuse and the use of medication, psychiatric illnesses and comorbid medical illnesses, family and social history, cognitive screening and functional assessment. There is an immediate need for training of caregivers, students and healthcare professionals on the detection, prevention and care of elderly people suffering from disorders of substance use. For elderly people treatment can be both non-pharmacological and pharmacological in nature and may involve short-term treatment, detoxification and maintenance treatment. Physicians play an important role in increasing the awareness of an elderly person regarding the relationship between substance abuse and deteriorating health. A plethora of patient-oriented approaches and techniques can be used in clinical practice in order to identify, refer and also treat substance use in older adults (Ranzijn, 2010).

A lack of understanding that addiction is a chronic disease and not a choice contributes to the shame and stigma that prevents elderly people from asking for treatment. Elderly people, owing to their frail health are at a greater risk to the harmful effects of alcohol and medications. The increased vulnerability of elderly people puts them at a greater risk for drug addictions, injury, sleeping disorders, cognitive decline, liver disease, memory problems, cardiovascular diseases and issues pertaining to mental health. Many elderly people develop a prescriptive medication misuse due to depression, pain, insomnia and anxiety (Nuta, 2011). Treatment for nicotine dependence includes nicotine replacement therapy combined with behavioral counseling. Other treatments include varenicline and bupropion which alleviates cravings of nicotine and have proven to be effective (Mendes, 2013).

Cannabis use disorder can be treated with motivational therapy, contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy. Oral THC reduces the withdrawal symptoms of cannabis disorder.

In the case of an overdose of benzodiazepine in elderly adults, flurnazenil can be administered in low doses. A medically supervised withdrawal schedule along with psychotherapy is also helpful and an awareness and education about benzodiazepine use is imperative to treat the initial symptoms of benzodiazepine dependence (Nuta, 2011).

The main goal of addiction treatment is to motivate and educate individuals to participate in their recovery. Elderly people do best in programs that entail age appropriate care. Programs for the elderly people should be accessible and open to the family and friends of the elderly person. They should not be too strict but at the same time, they should possess a structure. In general, elderly people prefer approaches in treatment that is structured but flexible programs, treatment that is gender-specific, a focus on developing self-esteem, written materials that are easy to read, caregivers and staff who specializes in elderly care, availability of a sliding scale, counseling or individualized attention. Treatment that entails the optional involvement of family and friends, accommodation for elderly people who have physical disabilities, treatment that is group based, transportation, peer support, food, shelter and clothing, counselors who practice self-care and genuinely cares for patients and counselors who focus on coping skills among other things help elderly people to combat drug abuse (Mendes, 2013).

With aging comes real and inevitable change. All the above-mentioned issues affect the quality of life, levels of satisfaction, wellbeing and positive health outcomes in the cases of the aging people. Human Development in the cases of aging care heavily depends on the individual ability to approach change and embrace in a positive and productive manner. This also includes the support from having a mental advantage and knowing how to keep on a positive thinking over the negatives by challenging circumstance. This improves likelihood for the positive changes as well as healing in life. The healthcare demand of the ageing population is higher in the developed nations ass there are various aspects of neglecting the aging problems and not supporting the older people psychologically to cope up with their physical problems. A large number of elderly people with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder use prescription drugs for purposes that are non-medical in nature. Health problems amongst the elderly people such as cardiovascular diseases might be aggravated by substance abuse (Mendes, 2013). These are the reasons why the inpatient treatment is needed for older adults who are victims of substance abuse.

Substance abuse disorders that occur with mental illness and physical illness may be related to insomnia and chronic pain, which results in substance abuse. Substance abuse also leads to bipolar disorders, depression and anxiety disorders in elderly people (Mendes, 2013). These can be overcome through successful aging. The concept of successful aging is closely linked with the human development in sociology. Successful aging fulfills all the demands of the older people in the society which are shared by the governmental support through different types of policies as well as the other non-governmental associations. This relates to the psychological belief of the aging persons when they feel themselves better in health than their same aged peers. Human development in the successful aging is an emphasizing factor to eliminate the physical and cognitive disabilities. This involves three components which include freedom from disability and disease originated from the old age, higher physical and cognitive functioning and productive and social engagement.

Development in the late adulthood depends upon two main theories. These include disengagement theory and activity theory. The first one states that the older people with the ageing of the people, withdraw from the society. This is due to the fact that the responsibilities and roles become quite difficult to play. This process opens up opportunities for the younger generations who fill up the vacated positions. However, this particular process enhances the health care demand or menta support for the elderly people retired from their social and economic responsibilities. Another theory of successful aging is activity theory (Boudini, 2013). This contends that actions are essential for maintaining a high quality of life. In this respect, the people need to be active in any time irrespective of their age. According to this theory, the elderly people need to adjust better with the aging processes in every respect like social, mental and physical. Therefore, for human development in the old age need to involve both intrinsic genetic factors as well as extrinsic external factors. The factors such as effective diet, personal habits, exercises and psychological aspects in the aging care which develop the lives of the people of late adulthood. Thus, the aging people needs to be productive, becoming mentally fit and able to lead a meaningful life.


Older adults comprise the fastest growing sub group of the population of Canada: by 2036, approximately one quarter of Canadians will be above sixty-five years of age. Although substance abuse is less prevalent among elderly people than younger adults, the detrimental and harmful effects of substance abuse is more problematic and pronounced in older adults than in younger adults when it occurs. Aging is associated with a plethora of physiological and anatomical changes, which in turn makes an elderly person more vulnerable to substance abuse. In particular, ageing is associated with a decline in homeostatic reserves, that is, the capacity of the body to bounce back and is unable to deal with the harmful effects of substance abuse on the brain, kidneys and the liver. There is an immense need to spread awareness among healthcare providers and caregivers and families of older adults on the subject of substance abuse in elderly people. Families of the elderly people along with caregivers, healthcare providers and the general populace should be educated about the issue of substance abuse prevalent among the elderly section of society. Healthcare professions need more training and education to effectively detect, prevent, assess as well as treat substance abuse in older adults. Services that are age- specific for the treatment of substance abuse need to be made easily accessible to elderly people and their families. One should spread awareness about the prevalence of substance disorder among older adults and develop standardized screening tools. Programs that are age-specific and have proven to be effective in treating substance abuse among the elderly population should be made accessible and widely available. Together, one can prevent substance abuse among the elderly people and help them if they are diagnosed with it.


Azulai, A. (2014). Ageism and future cohorts of elderly: Implications for social work. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 11(2), 1-12.

Boudiny, K. (2013). ‘Active ageing’: from empty rhetoric to effective policy tool. Ageing & Society, 33(6), 1077-1098.

Boudiny, K., & Mortelmans, D. (2011). A critical perspective: Towards a broader understanding of'active ageing'. E-journal of applied psychology, 7(1), 8-14.

Boulton-Lewis, G. M., & Buys, L. (2015). Learning choices, older Australians and active ageing. Educational Gerontology, 41(11), 757-766.

Foster, L., & Walker, A. (2013). Gender and active ageing in Europe. European Journal of Ageing, 10(1), 3-10.

Jones, M., & Allen, C. (2013). Successful interventions to encourage active ageing. Nursing & Residential Care, 15(7), 498-500.

Mapoma, C. C. (2014). Determinants of active ageing in Zambia. African Population Studies, 28(3), 1286-1296.

Mendes, F. R. (2013). Active ageing: A right or a duty?. Health Sociology Review, 22(2), 174-185.

Nuta, A. C. (2011). Active Ageing: An Analysis. Acta Universitatis Danubius. Œconomica, 7(5).

Pavlova, M. K., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2016). Perceived Expectations for Active Aging, Formal Productive Roles, and Psychological Adjustment Among the Young-Old. Research on aging, 38(1), 26-50.

Ranzijn, R. (2010). Active ageing—Another way to oppress marginalized and disadvantaged elders? Aboriginal elders as a case study. Journal of Health Psychology, 15(5), 716-723.

World Health Organization. (2002). Active ageing: A policy framework (No. WHO/NMH/NPH/02.8). Geneva: World Health Organization.

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