Maturing out, natural recovery, and dual diagnosis: What are the implications for older adult mental health services?

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Abstract

In 1962, Charles Winick proposed that addiction was a self-limiting process, whereby individuals stopped using substances once the stresses of life transitions ceased. The notion of maturing out, as labelled by Winick, often forms the basis of the natural recovery movement in alcohol and other drug (AOD) research, aiding the notion that older individuals either cease their substance use or fall victim to the higher mortality rates prevalent in substance-using populations. As more consumers present to adult mental health treatment settings with co-occurring substance use disorders, the idea that individuals will simply cease using AOD is outdated. Given the future challenges of an ageing population, it is prudent to explore those who fail to mature out of substance use, as well as challenge the notion that older adult mental health services rarely encounter substance-using individuals. The present study explores Winick's research in the context of an ageing population and older adult mental health services. It also ponders the proposition put forth in subsequent research that older individuals with lifelong substance use switch to substances that are easier to obtain and better tolerated by their ageing bodies.

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