Opioid Misuse Among Older Adults

addictionEarlier this summer we wrote about an alarming trend of overdose deaths involving older Americans. Overdose is quite common among opioid users, but people over the age of 50 are far more likely to be on several other medications. Compared to younger adults, that is. The mixture of opioids and other medication can have a synergistic effect, heightening the risk of an overdose. Opioid abuse hospitalizations involving people over 65 quintupled over the past two decades.

“The high rates of [multiple] illnesses in older populations and the potential for drug interactions has profound implications for the health and well-being of older adults who continue to misuse opioids,” Dr. Kimberly Johnson, Director for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said in a news release.

When following the various developments of the opioid addiction epidemic, the news is usually concerning. Earlier this week, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued its first report. Key findings included that around 142 Americans die of an overdose every day in the United States, The Washington Post reports. The report included several recommendations that could help combat the epidemic, starting with the President declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency. The commission believes that by doing so, it will “force Congress to focus on funding” and to “awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”


Older Adult Opioid Abuse

One of the takeaways of a 20-year-long epidemic is that addiction does not discriminate. The quote from above could not be more apt. A poignant reality that will hopefully sway more lawmakers to tackle the addiction epidemic with compassion, rather than punishment. Nobody is safe from the long reach of opioid addiction.

While there have been some positive strides made regarding the epidemic, there is still a staggering amount of work to do yet. A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that opioid misuse among younger has decreased (11.5 percent to 8 percent) from 2002 to 2014, HealthDay reports. Unfortunately, opioid misuse involving heroin and painkillers with adults over 50 rose from 1 percent to 2 percent in the same time frame.

Five strategies for addressing the epidemic have been put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

  • Improving access to addiction treatment and recovery services.
  • Promoting targeted availability and distribution of naloxone.
  • Better reporting of public health data on the opioid epidemic.
  • Increasing support for research on pain and addiction.
  • Utilizing safer pain management methods.


Addiction Treatment Is The Solution

The recommendations from the HHS could do a lot of good, but it could easily be argued that expanding access to addiction treatment services will be most effective. Simply making it harder to get certain drugs only addresses a symptom of the much greater problem of addiction.

If you are an older adult struggling with prescription opioids and/or heroin, it is strongly advised that you seek help. Sooner, rather than later. The longer one puts off treatment, the greater the likelihood of premature death. Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat to learn more about our Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program. This is addiction treatment specifically tailored to meet the needs of people over 50 years of age.