Substance Use - Opioids


Clinical Guidelines

Information and Resources for

Health Care Professionals

Information and Resources for

Older Adults and Care Partners

Information for Health Care Professionals

In general there are two populations that develop opioid use disorder – those with longstanding use since teens or twenties, and those that develop it later in life after prescription exposure for pain. In 2015, older adults in Canada were the age group with the highest prevalence of hospitalization due to opioid overdose.

  • People over 50 years old accounted for 39% of deaths from Substance Use Disorders in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Of those deaths in older adults (65+) approximately 75% were linked to the use of opioids.
  • To reduce the risk of developing OUD, prescriptions should be the lowest effect dose of the least potent immediate release opioid for three days or less and rarely seven days or more.
  • Non-opioid and non-pharmacological strategies are preferable to opioids.
  • When treating older adults with OUD, buprenorphine-naloxone should be considered first-line for withdrawal management and opioid maintenance treatment. Methadone is an alternative. For select patients, either slow-release oral morphine or opioid antagonist treatment with naltrexone may be used.
  • Behavioural techniques, particularly contingency management, can be offered (but not required) in conjunction with pharmacological management of OUD in older adults.

Help us improve our resources: 

CCSMH aims to promote older adults’ mental health by connecting people, ideas and resources. Please take a few moments to tell us about yourself and your experience with our resources by participating in this survey.


Canadian Guidelines on Opioid Use Disorder Among Older Adults PDF

The purpose of these clinical guidelines is to highlight the issues facing older adults with, or at risk for, an OUD, and to provide recommendations for the prevention, screening, assessment, and treatment of an OUD in those ≥ 65 years of age.

Online Resources for Opioid Use Disorder

This list is designed to help primary health care & clinical care providers assess and discuss with persons aged 65 or older, the potential risks and benefits of opioid use.

Canadian Guidelines on Opioid Use Disorder Among Older Adults

Published in the Canadian Geriatrics Journal, March 2020

CCSMH Webinar: Canadian Guidelines on Opioid Use Disorder Among Older Adults

Learn about CCSMH’s Canadian Guidelines detailing the evidence and best practice recommendations for the prevention, assessment and treatment of opioid use disorder among older adults.