Opioid Addiction Among Older Americans

opioid addiction

The “golden years” of one’s life ideally would be typified by spending time with grandchildren and spending time on the links. After all, you have earned it after decades working towards a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, older Americans are often set back by chronic pain, the lingering symptoms of an injury or just the byproduct of weathering life’s many storms. Back injuries and arthritis is particularly common among people in their 60’s and beyond.

Our interest in the trend of chronic pain among older Americans, as you can probably easily deduce, lies with how pain is managed in America—more times than not the solution rests with opioid painkillers. Given that much of the talk about the opioid epidemic in the United States is focused on young adults overdosing in record numbers, it can become easy to lose sight of the true scale and scope of the epidemic. It is important to understand that people from both ends of the adult spectrum have been touched by both opioid use disorder and opioid overdose death.


Eligible For An Overdose

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that nearly 14,000 (42 percent of the annual total) people who died from an opioid overdose were over the age of 45. The fact that older Americans are becoming addicted and dying from overdose made up nearly half of the death toll that year is certainly troubling, but what’s just as concerning is that that has not gained much attention.

“The deaths of older people are an untold part of it,” Jeremiah Gardner tells AARP, public affairs manager of the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. 

The reality is that everyone is eligible for developing a dependence to a narcotic – old or young, rich or poor, white or black. Just because someone is experiencing regular symptoms of pain does not mean that the answer is always opioid painkillers. But, in the same year mentioned earlier, almost one-third of all Medicare patients (around 12 million people) received a prescription for opioids like OxyContin (oxycodone), according to AARP. In 2015, 2.7 million Americans over 50 painkillers were used in unintended ways, and in the past 20 years opioid abuse related hospitalizations of people over 65 quintupled.

Please take a moment to watch a video about older Americans affected by opioids narcotics:

If you are having troubling watching, please click here.


We Know How We Got Here, Now What?

The causes of the American prescription opioid addiction epidemic are aplenty. One of the major contributing factors is our over reliance of this class of drugs for practically all severities of pain. Researchers have yet to offer a viable, non-addictive alternative to date—which means prescribing trends will probably remain stable, at least among older Americans, whose health problems are objectively visible. However, what is done when opioid use disorder is identified will make all the difference in the fight to save lives.

Those who seek help in addiction treatment facilities, especially centers with specialty tracks like our own, greatly increase their chance of not becoming a statistic of the morbid side of this epidemic. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we understand that our older clients have specific needs that must be addressed, if successful outcomes are to be achieved. Our 30 day Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program is tailored to meet those needs, providing an intimate setting where clients are surrounded by a non-confrontational group of peers all working towards the goal of long-term recovery.

Please contact us today to begin the lifesaving journey of addiction recovery.