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AgeSUD - Promoting healthy longevity among people with substance use disorders

We will investigate aging and age-related phenomena, such as somatic health, among people with substance use disorders with a primary focus on OMT patients. 

About the project

Norway and the other Nordic countries are some of the first in the world with a growing proportion of ageing opioid maintenance treatment (OMT) patients. In 2020, more than 2,000 Norwegian patients were over 50 years old.

Addiction and healthcare services are largely unaware of the extent of the health burden and needs of these older patients. Yet, health care services must anticipate and prepare for predicted increases in demand by this population.

As a group, ageing patients with substance use disorders (SUD) typically experience age-related morbidity prematurely, and likely in co-occurrence with other serious health and social problems that will soon require complex and well-coordinated, multidisciplinary care from both specialist and municipal services.

Because this trend is so recent, we know very little about these ageing patients health needs, utilization of services, long-term outcomes--other than survival--or of the health care system's capacity to assess or meet these needs in Norway and elsewhere.

Several signs point to the ageing OMT cohort likely needing many additional services,  and at earlier ages than otherwise expected. However, we lack the detailed knowledge necessary for offering much needed age-specific services.


The overall goal of the AgeSUD project is to improve knowledge about the characteristics and needs of ageing opioid and other substance users. These findings could have a direct impact on treatment management and quality of life for this patient group.

In order to achieve the primary goal we will investigate who the “old” OMT patients and what their specific health problems and service needs are through these research questions:

  • Are they ageing prematurely?
  • Can we identify age-related diseases?
  • How can we support long-term retention in OMT and improve treatment quality?
  • How can we identify and prevent harmful prescription opioid use among older persons?


Our goal is to provide updated knowledge that may be used to develop recommendations for available treatment services in the health care system, including clear definitions of where responsibility lies within the system. For example, our results may inform recommendations for who should screen for age-related disorders and conditions in the future: the general practitioner; the OMT specialist; a geriatric specialist; or a case manager?

Thus, a potential outcome of this research may be a recommendation that OMT patients with complex age-related comorbidities are provided a case manager to help coordinate their treatment. 


AgeSUD combines qualitative and quantitative methods in a unique design linking interview data from longitudinal clinical cohort studies (from NorCOMT) to national health and social welfare registry data, supplemented with qualitative data such as from focus group interviews.

Registry data linked to the NorCOMT clinical cohort will allow both the identification of risk factors of poor treatment trajectories (such as treatment drop out ) as well as of long-term outcomes such as overdose or the development of somatic disorders.


  • Helse Sør-Øst RHF



Published May 28, 2021 3:43 PM - Last modified Sep. 1, 2021 11:19 AM


Principal Investigator