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Enhancing the detection and management of hazardous alcohol use in older adults

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Date Published:
22 Jun 2023
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Event date: 
Thursday, 22 June 2023 - 3:00pm

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This webinar will provide an overview of research undertaken to explore hazardous alcohol use in older New Zealanders and the feasibility of introducing enhanced screening for alcohol use in older adults in primary care. 

Older adults are at significant risk of alcohol-related harm due to physiological changes (such as the reduction in lean body mass and reduced metabolic efficiency), the increased likelihood of developing health conditions exacerbated by alcohol use, and the use of alcohol interactive medications. Yet despite this, very little is known about the role of alcohol in older people’s lives over their lifespan, patterns of alcohol use over older adulthood, and how the drinking patterns of older New Zealanders compare with patterns in older adults in other countries. 

This presentation will describe the results of a research programme undertaken in collaboration with Massey University to address these research questions. The first phase of this research used data from the New Zealand Health, Work & Retirement Longitudinal Study (NZHWR) to explore drinking patterns in older New Zealanders (50 years and older) nationally and internationally.  These data also permitted us to undertake a longitudinal assessment of the drinking patterns evident in older New Zealanders over a10 year period (2006 to 2016).  We also compared the classification of hazardous versus non-hazardous drinking based on the AUDIT-C and Comorbidity Alcohol Risk Evaluation Tool (CARET), which is an older adult-specific alcohol screen that assesses alcohol-related risks both based on consumption levels and the presence of factors increasing potential harm. The second phase of this research involved the development of an enhanced screening package for older adults in primary care.  This study consisted of developing enhanced screening capabilities of a group of large primary care (GP) services in NZ and undertaking a pilot study to determine the feasibility and acceptability of the screening package.  This study was undertaken over the time NZ was affected by Covid, particularly Covid lockdowns, so the challenges and key learnings from this pilot will be discussed. 

About the speaker 

David Newcombe is an Associate Professor in Alcohol and Drug Studies, co-director for the Centre for Addiction Research, and Head of the Department of Social and Community Health in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland.  He is also the Academic Director of postgraduate Addiction programmes.

David has worked in both clinical and research roles for over 25 years in the addiction sector in Australia and New Zealand. He completed his PhD at the University of Adelaide. He worked at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research into the Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Problems at the University of Adelaide before moving to New Zealand.  His current research interests include: screening for problematic substance use and assessing the efficacy of brief interventions in different at-risk groups; the clinical pharmacology and psychopharmacology of drugs of abuse; and the clinical effectiveness of pharmacotherapies used to treat alcohol and drug misuse.

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