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Prescription Opioid Abuse In The Elderly An Urgent Concern

You may be aware of the growing prescription drug epidemic, but the addicts may not be who you expect.  Prescription opioid abuse in the elderly is reaching unprecedented levels and is an urgent concern.  Out of all medication prescribed in the United States, those sixty-five and older use one third of it.  And last year, 2.8 million seniors abused prescription drugs; a number that continues to grow.

Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone seem to be the drugs of choice, as these are present in about forty percent of deaths caused by opioid misuse.  Yet doctors don’t seem to have any intention of curbing their prescriptions, especially since the elderly seem to suffer from so many chronic conditions.  Pharmacists are also terribly lenient about the medication they dispense, despite the laws requiring them to turn away anyone who might be abusing prescription drugs.  It may be that they don’t know what to look for–especially in an unassuming senior.

Unexpected Dealers

The pills aren’t coming from the street–they’re coming from well-meaning friends, family medicine cabinets, or unsuspecting doctors.  A person may bring home thirty Vicodin after a root canal, but only use four or five.  The remainder gets stored in the medicine cabinet, where it is easy for addicts to pilfer a few without causing notice.

It is common for the elderly to suffer from a number of ailments, so doctors may not blink an eye at requests for multiple prescriptions.  However, officials urge doctors to be particularly cautious when it comes to the elderly.  Older bodies metabolize drugs more slowly, increasing the risk of overdose.  A typical amount of medication for a twenty-year-old is not the same for someone sixty-five or older.

Doctors should maintain close supervision over elderly prescriptions.  Instead of prescribing three months’ worth of medication, only a few weeks’ worth is necessary.

The Baby Boomer Mentality

The generation that grew up during the sixties are likely to have a far different approach to drugs than their parents did.  They grew accustomed to drug and alcohol abuse as teenagers, and we are seeing this repeated in their older age as elderly drug abuse increases.  They learned to cope with hard times by using drugs to forget about it, to not feel.  As hard times surface again, what with the loss of loved ones, the loss of one’s job, children leaving home, or lack of goals, baby boomers are relying once again on substance abuse to get them through.

This plus the availability of drugs to people in this age group spell a recipe for disaster.

Red Flags

Signs of drug abuse are similar to symptoms that come with old age, so be cautious when evaluating for a drug problem.  Watch for the following signs of medication abuse and get help immediately:

•    They appear to have a number of medical conditions that require prescriptions.

•    Their chronic pain is higher than average.

•    They doctor-shop and only keep appointments related to pain-medication, not others.

•    Personal hygiene is lacking and their appearance becomes drastically unkempt.

•    They are frequently “losing” medication.

•    At the first doctor’s visit they demand a prescription for a controlled substance.

•    They ask for early refills.

If you notice these or any other things that seem out of character take action. Educate yourself through materials found at www.friendsofnarconon.org and find ways of talking to the addicted person and getting them to go to treatment. It is never too late for anyone to get help but the key is not to wait.

Source:  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/776128

Everyone Is Affected By Prescriptions Not Just Teens

We all know the dangers of teen drug abuse and with the recent surge in pharmaceutical popularity, parents often have to be more concerned about what they have in their own medicine cabinets than with illicit drug use at school or parties.  But prescription drug abuse is a danger to people of all ages, not just teens.

According to a 2009 report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are around sixteen million people (teens and adults) in the United States who have abused prescription drugs.  Thirteen percent of them are older adults.  They make up one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription pain medication.

Think about it.  Aside from a heavy injury or dental work, what would send an average kid to the doctor for heavy pain meds like Vicodin or Percocet?  Yet how many age-related diseases demand pain management?  Osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis, sleep disorders, lung disease, and many other painful conditions require prescription medication.

An Unexpected Addiction

Oftentimes users of prescription medication find themselves dependent before they know it.  Trying to stop use brings on symptoms of withdrawal, which mirror that of illness–runny nose, cough, fever, trouble sleeping, tremors, anxiety and depression.  Taking the drug again gives them relief.  Before they know it, their lives are consumed by a full-blown addiction.

Adults need drug education just as much as teens.  Follow prescriptions precisely as instructed and do not continue use longer than advised.  If you notice signs of dependence in yourself, get help.

Stopping Prescription Abuse

Another thing that can be done to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place is to properly dispose of your prescriptions so that they don’t get taken and abused. Don’t leave unfinished bottles of medication in places where teens or children can get their hands on it.  Brightly-colored pills can look like candy, and even throwing them in the trash can be risky.  Many places have prescription drop-offs, where you can safely dispose of prescription medication.

Most teenagers who get addicted to prescription drugs such as Ritalin or OxyContin find them, or are given them, by family members or friends who use them.  Peers offer them as relief during stressful times–a glaring reality during those tender years.

However the drugs cannot be taken from a friend or family member if they are disposed of correctly. After finishing a prescription take the drug to your local enforcement drop off station.

Prescription Drug Abuse In The Elderly

Not just teens, but the elderly have also been greatly affected by this problem. Drugs have more of an effect on older bodies due to the fact that their metabolism is slower, so it is harder to break down such substances.  It takes a much lower dose to bring on addiction, and a confusion on this can cloud symptoms of addiction.

Not only that, prescription drugs can prove more dangerous to the elderly by increasing the risk of falls and other accidents, which can be fatal in those with osteoporosis and age-related conditions.

Signs of Prescription Drug Dependency

Watch for the following signs of dependence on prescription drugs and get help immediately:

•    Increase in usage.  Over time, as the body grows tolerant of drugs, it requires larger doses to produce the same effects.  Watch for dosage increases or more frequent use.
•    Personality changes.  The user may find himself experiencing drastic mood swings, deep depression or anxiety, lowered energy levels, and may even have trouble concentrating.  He may become withdrawn and may no longer participate in activities he was once interested in.
•    Continued use even after the physical condition being treated has been remedied.
•    Blackouts and forgetfulness.

For more information contact www.friendsofnarconon.org.

Source:  http://www.delmarvanow.com/article/20120921/LIFESTYLE/309210021/Prescription-drug-abuse-danger-all-not-just-teens