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Background: In the United States, the number of older adults reporting non-medical use of prescription pain relievers (NMUPPR) between 2015 and 2019 has remained constant, while those meeting criteria for opioid use disorders (OUDs) between 2013 and 2018 increased three-fold. These rates are expected to increase due to increased life expectancy among this population coupled with higher rates of substance use. However, they have consistently lower screening rates for problematic prescription pain reliever use, compared to younger cohorts. Objectives: This commentary reviewed trends in older adult NMUPPR and OUDs and reviewed several available screening tools. We then considered reasons why providers may not be screening their patients, with a focus on older adults, for NMUPPR and OUDs. Finally, we provided recommendations to increase screenings in healthcare settings. Results: Low screening rates in older adult patients may be due to several contributing factors, such as providers’ implicit biases and lack of training, time constraints, and comorbid conditions that mask NMUPPR and OUD-related symptoms. Recommendations include incorporating more addiction-related curricula in medical schools, encouraging participation in CME training focused on substance use, attending implicit bias training, and breaking down the silos between pharmacy and geriatric, addiction, and family medicine. Conclusions: There is a growing need for older adult drug screenings, and we have provided several recommendations for improvement. By increasing screenings among older populations, providers will assist in the identification and referral of patients to appropriate and timely substance use treatment and resources to ultimately ameliorate the health of older adult patients.

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Substance Use & Misuse on 2023, available online: