Why Older Americans Are Overdosing on Opioids

senior opioid abuseWhen you think of opioid misuse, you may not think about the elderly. But the reality is that those over 65, who are often struggling with chronic, painful health conditions like arthritis and cancer, are becoming a big part of the opioid epidemic. In fact, the population of older adults who misuse opioids is projected to double from 2004 to 2020, from 1.2 percent to 2.4 percent, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 
So what’s contributing to this rise? An analysis of Medicare Part D data by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that more than 500,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries received high amounts of opioids in 2016, with doses exceeding the recommended amount set forth by the manufacturer, says SAMHSA. What’s more, older adults who face barriers getting pain medications have been found to get prescriptions from friends and family without proper instruction. 
Perhaps the biggest explanation, notes a recent poll, is that doctors aren’t communicating the risks that come with pain meds. Beyond the risk of addiction, opioid abuse can increase the risk of breathing complications, confusion, drug interaction problems and increased risk of falls for the older adult population, according to SAMHSA. 
“The messages that doctors give to patients are largely dictated by how they perceive patients,” Sheila Vakharia, a policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Atlantic. “You don’t often see the elderly as a population at risk for developing substance use disorders.” And yet with higher levels of pain, the risk to misuse and abuse is also higher. 
Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program
Prescription medication misuse is the most common substance related problem among older adults, with alcohol running a close second.
If you’re concerned about an older adult in your life and don’t know how to help, contact us. To learn about our drug and alcohol rehab for older adults, call today: 866-273-0868.