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(CNN) - A government study shows that 17 percent of people over the age of 60 abuse alcohol and prescription or over-the-counter drugs. But an even more hidden problem is that of illicit drug use.
"Elderly drug abuse is a significant problem that has gotten far too little attention," said Peter Provet, president of New York-based Odyssey House Inc., a residential treatment organization. "The vast majority of the people in our program abuse illicit drugs and alcohol - alcohol, crack cocaine and heroin in that order."
Among reasons cited for the increase are loneliness or lifetime habit.
"It's such an important issues," said Claudia Feldman, a spokeswoman for the National Institute on Aging. "But we just don't know enough about it."
The CNN Medical Correspondent Linda Ciampa contributed to this report.
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