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      4 min read

      Relief From Alcohol Dependency Gets Easier as We Grow Older

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      You’ve heard it before: Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. And while there’s much truth in that statement, a study published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse offers reassuring (if not remarkable) news that remission from alcohol dependency gets easier with age.

      Improved Mental Health Associated With Less Alcohol Dependency

      The report further indicates that — in addition to alcohol remission — more than half of the subjects in their study were also free of mental illness and nearly 40% are in excellent mental health.

      Using data drawn from Statistics Canada's Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health, researchers compared nationally representative samples of two groups of Canadian adults. One group of 820 adults had a history of alcohol dependence. The other group of 19,945 adults had never been addicted to alcohol.

      Findings from the past year produced the following results:

      • 71% of those with a history of alcohol dependence are no longer dependent

      • 52% are free of any addictions or mental illness

      • 38% are in optimal mental health with high levels of happiness and social and psychological well-being

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      "Past research has largely focused on remission from alcohol dependence,” says first author, Melissa L. Redmond, assistant professor of Social Work at Carleton University.

      “We sought to understand the whole continuum of recovery. We wanted to know what factors were associated with flourishing — not merely remission. The high levels of resilience that we found are encouraging for those who are alcohol-dependent, their family and loved ones and for professionals in the field."

      The big question is, how much of a factor is the age of those in remission from alcohol dependence? According to the study, each decade of age is associated with more than 30% higher odds of remission from alcohol dependency and optimal mental health.

      Co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging, explains the rationale for these age-related improvements:

      "With greater age, individuals often experience lower impulsivity, more family and work responsibilities, and a concomitant increased understanding of the negative impact that alcohol dependence has on quality of life, employment, family life and social relationships. Older individuals may have moved away from the social circles and alcohol dependent social situations of their youth, which would make decreasing alcohol use easier."

      The report also notes that older respondents are better able to manage negative emotions and may purposely focus on positive relationships and experiences. The report suggests that this combination of factors may diminish reliance on alcohol for this aging demographic.

      Social And RElational FActors Affect Chances of Remission, Mental Health

      New call-to-actionUsing measures that incorporate the social provision scale and marital status, social support “was robustly associated with remission from alcohol dependence, absence of past-year SDPD (Substance Dependence and Psychiatric Disorders), and CMH (Complete Mental Health),” the authors wrote. Each additional point on the scale was associated with increases in the following odds:

      • 7% chance of alcohol-dependent remission

      • 12% chance of absence of SDPD

      • 15% chance of CMH

      Conversely, those with a lifetime history of depression and/or anxiety were almost twice as susceptible to SDPD and half as likely to attain CMH.

      The report cautions, however, that even after taking into account numerous known risk factors, the outlook was far brighter for those who had no history of alcohol dependence. Compared to their alcohol-dependent counterparts, for example, they are:

      • Seven times less likely to experience SDPD

      • Three times more likely to enjoy CMH

      Advancing age is rarely associated with improved health. But it can be for those attempting to reverse a history of alcohol dependence, the study suggests. With each passing decade, it says, the chances are about 30-40% greater for alcohol-dependence remission, absence of SDPD, and of achieving CMH.

      Positive outcomes were more common among married respondents and those who had never experienced major depressive disorders or generalized anxiety disorders. The strong link between a history of mental illness and worse recovery outcomes emphasizes the importance of providing evidence-based interventions to address mental health and substance dependence issues.

      The Statistics Canada survey used for the study did not include information about which interventions if any, those with alcohol dependence received. However, related research indicates that brief interventions, motivational enhancement therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are quite successful in reducing alcohol use as well as dependence-related symptoms.

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      With InSync Healthcare Solutions, you don't have to wait years to improve your chances of finding EHR software that's developed with behavioral health practices in mind. In fact, you don't have to wait at all.

      InSync's behavioral health EHR software comes with specialized features that include group scheduling, group notes, telehealth, e-Prescribing, eMAR, and highly configurable templates and custom forms, to name a few.

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      5-minute InSync Mental Health Software Snapshot Demo

      For a closer look at how our user-friendly, mobile-friendly software system can streamline workflows for your mental health practice, schedule a demo now with one of our experts. We're happy to answer questions and explain how our system can save you time and money. 


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