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Silent epidemic: Seniors and addiction

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While heroin use and overdoses are rising among younger Americans, more of the country's older adults are getting hooked on the very drugs meant to help them: prescription opioids. The medicines often are taken by older patients being treated for arthritis, headache, fibromyalgia, or another medical problem.

While heroin use and overdoses are rising among younger Americans, more of the country's older adults are getting hooked on the very drugs meant to help them: prescription opioids. The medicines often are taken by older patients being treated for arthritis, headache, fibromyalgia, or another medical problem. "We see the highest rates of overdose deaths in individuals who appear to be receiving legitimate prescriptions for chronic pain problems," confirms Andrew Kolodny, MD, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. While some emergency department (ED) trips or fatal overdoses among older adults are due to accidents—harmful interactions between several drugs or dosing mistakes on the part of the patient, for example—the number of ED cases as a result of opioid analgesic misuse rocketed 78% between 2006 and 2012, based on recent research. CDC, meanwhile, reports that hospitalizations for opioid abuse have increased most sharply among Americans aged 45–85 years and older, with a more than fivefold jump between 1993 and 2012. It also notes that adults aged 45–54 years have the highest death rates from opioid overdoses. Prescribing lower-dose analgesics is one way to mitigate the risk of overdose, according to Kolodny.

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http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/12/02/silent-epidemic-seniors-and-addiction

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