The number of prescriptions for addictive painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone in the United States was skyrocketing over the past decade – until it became apparent that overdose deaths and opiate addiction rates were going through the roof as well. Since then, changes have been made that limit the availability of prescriptions to those who would abuse them, and as a result, the rate of painkiller abuse has gone down – except among senior citizens.
Seniors and Addictive Medication
According to a report on Medicare data published in USA Today, the use of sedatives and opiate painkillers is increasing sharply in the over-65 age group – an estimated one in five Americans over 65 has a prescription for a painkiller – and they are experiencing high rates of prescription drug abuse, addiction and medical complications as a result. The study found that:
- Seniors are using prescription painkillers for longer than they used to.
- The number of seniors with a prescription for painkillers increased 30 percent between 2007 and 2012.
- An estimated 8.5 million seniors had an opiate prescription in 2012.
- Use of the most commonly prescribed opiate medications (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.) increased by an estimated 50 percent.
- The amount of each medication per patient increased by an average of 15 percent.
- Prescriptions for sedatives prescribed to reduce anxiety increased by about 25 percent between 2007 and 2012. The average amount of medication prescribed increased by about 10 percent in that time.
The Problem With Addictive Medication
Sedatives and opiate painkillers can make the user hazy as well as reduce their agility and ability to process information. As a result, their chronic use can lead to an increase in:
- Slip and falls
- Cognitive issues
- Respiratory problems
- Decreased daily quality of life
When the patient uses these kinds of medications in combination, it can increase the chance that he or she will develop these kinds of problems. Michael Von Korff of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle says: “Misuse and abuse of these medicines is not uncommon among the elderly. They do get into trouble with these drugs.”
Early Help Is Key
Paying attention is the first step to recognizing when there may be an issue with your loved one’s use of addictive painkillers and sedatives. Note the length of time that they have used the medications, their response, and whether or not they abuse alcohol or other drugs as well. If you see a problem, don’t wait to intervene. If addiction or willful abuse of their prescriptions is an issue, we can help. Contact us at Alta Mira today.