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Senior Citizen Opioid Addiction

by Nick

Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 years are the largest section of the population that abuse prescription medication such as anti-anxiety drugs, opioid pain killers and stimulants used for treating ADHD. However, there’s a growing issue with opioid addiction within the senior citizen section of the population. This includes addiction to illicit drugs like heroin as well as pain relief medication like Fentanyl.

Within the 12-year period from 2002 to 2014, older adult opioid abuse doubled and rose to two percent in people who are 50 years or older. Among adults who are 65 years or older, the number of emergency room visits from opioid misuse increased by 74 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to a report published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The report also revealed that 124,300 opioid-related admissions occurred for patients who were 65 years or older in the U.S. in 2015.

Senior Citizen Opioid Abuse and Benzodiazepine Use

Just as younger adults battle with addiction to prescription medication, many seniors struggle with addiction to opioids and anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines. This class of drugs includes medicines like Valium, Xanax and Klonopin, which are often prescribed to treat conditions such as anxiety, seizures and insomnia.

Unfortunately, older adults often have trouble metabolizing these drugs. They can cause dizziness and confusion as side effects. If seniors take these medications for a long time, there’s a tendency for them to get addicted to them. Additionally, combining opioids with benzodiazepines can increase the likelihood of overdose.

Seniors Are Using Opioids as Medication for Longer Than Necessary

JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that showed up to one-third of the seniors who received prescriptions from primary care providers rather than psychiatrists went on to use them long-term. This was against the treatment guidelines that recommended only short-term use. The wider variety of medications that older adults take can also heighten the risk of becoming dependent on a medication. This can easily result in addiction that goes undetected and undisclosed.

Senior Citizen Opioid Abuse Is Usually Unintentional

While there is an abuse of illicit drugs like Heroin among seniors, many overdose deaths involving older adults are linked to prescription drugs. In most cases, the overdose or misuse happens gradually without any intention.

Most seniors taking prescribed pain relief drugs don’t take them to get high. They’re simply using them to manage pain. In an attempt to handle discomfort and pain, many senior citizens may progressively increase the quantity ingested past the prescribed amount. Consequently, they end up addicted to opioids unintentionally.

Prevention and Treatment of Addiction to Opioids Among Seniors

The most effective method of opioid addiction treatment is medication-assisted treatment with an FDA approved drug. The most commonly used drug for this purpose is methadone, and more recently buprenorphine or Suboxone.

This form of treatment is appropriate for the older population. While most of the misuse of prescription drugs in older adults goes untreated, the medication-assisted treatment programs that have worked for young adults should also be encouraged for seniors.

Visit a Health Care Resource Center Location With Your Older Loved Ones

At HCRC, we’re ready to help all seniors that need to recover from opioid use disorder. Give us a call now at 866-758-7769 or complete our contact form to send an instant message.

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