Tag Archives: elderly

Elderly population suffering from pill abuse

pill bottlesHealth professionals are seeing an increase in prescription drug abuse among the elderly — a problem that is largely going unnoticed due to the difficulties of balancing seniors’ legitimate medical concerns and the potential for abuse.

According to this article, “loss, isolation and easy access to medication make it increasingly common for aging adults to become addicted to the drugs they need to sleep through the night or manage their chronic pain.”

The number of people 55 and older admitted to the emergency room across the U.S. because of nonmedical use of prescription drugs more than tripled between 2004 and 2011, the article says, citing data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that America’s 78 million aging baby boomers are also experiencing the effects of the epidemic. According to the Times, a 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3% in 2011 from 2.7% in 2002; opiates were among the most commonly abused drugs.

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Painkiller abuse among the elderly on the rise

elderly.pills.480Although prescription drug addiction is often portrayed as an issue affecting teens and young adults, America’s 78 million aging baby boomers are also experiencing the effects of the epidemic, according to this article in the New York Times. A 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3% in 2011 from 2.7% in 2002; opiates were among the most commonly abused drugs, the article says.

Other studies have estimated that up to 10% of the elderly misuse prescription drugs with major abuse potential, most often anti-anxiety benzodiazepines like Klonopin, sleeping aids like Ambien, and opiate painkillers such as OxyContin, the article says. In addition, women far outnumber men when it comes to nonmedical use of prescription medication: 44% of women as opposed to 23% of men, according to SAMHSA.

One major generational difference seems to be that the elderly rarely use alcohol or drugs to “get high” — rather, they turn to alcohol and drugs in response to the physical and psychological pain due to medical and psychiatric illness, the loss of loved ones, or social isolation, the article notes.

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