Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse in Seniors

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Prescription drug abuse in seniors is a growing and alarming issue in the United States. It’s a problem that has unfortunately been overlooked for too long but requires immediate attention. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, adults aged 55 and older are more likely to misuse prescription drugs than younger adults. In fact, in the US, seniors (people who are over the age of 65) make up 13% of the population but are responsible for purchasing over a third of all prescription drugs in the country. This trend is particularly concerning because seniors are more susceptible to the negative effects of drug abuse, including addiction, overdose, and other health complications.

In order to gather more insights about the issue, we’ve consulted with experts in the field from Boynton Beach Rehab Center, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the problem and offer possible solutions. This article will delve into the complex issue of prescription drug abuse among seniors, explore the root causes, and provide practical solutions to prevent and treat it. We will also highlight the importance of proper monitoring, communication, and education to address this issue. It’s time to take action and address this problem head-on, to ensure the safety and well-being of our seniors.

Everything you need to know about prescription drug abuse in seniors and the dangers of it

Prescription drug abuse has become a national problem in the United States. And even though all age groups are affected, it’s particularly common among seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults are more likely to be prescribed opioids and other prescription drugs, and they are also more likely to use them for longer periods of time than younger adults. This puts them at a higher risk of addiction and overdose. In addition, seniors are more likely to have other health conditions that can be affected by opioid use, such as sleep apnea, which can increase the chances of overdose.

Elderly doctor sitting at his desk and reading about prescription drug abuse in seniors
The trend of overprescribing opioids and other prescription drugs led to a massive increase in prescription drug addiction in the US among all age groups but particularly seniors.

The overprescription of opioids and other prescription drugs has also played a significant role in the opioid crisis in the United States. It’s important to note that while prescription drugs can be very beneficial in managing certain conditions, it’s crucial to use them as prescribed and to be aware of the potential side effects and dangers of abuse. This is especially important when it comes to seniors as they turn to medication to manage various conditions.

In order to get to the bottom of the growing issue of prescription drug abuse in seniors, we first need to figure out the root cause. That’s why we’ve asked experts from the inpatient program Florida to help us and here are the main contributing factors that increase the chances of prescription drug abuse in the older population.

The role of chronic pain

Chronic pain is a major contributor to senior prescription drug abuse, a problem many seniors face daily. Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and back problems can cause chronic pain that can be debilitating and interfere with daily life. In an attempt to manage this pain, many seniors turn to prescription drugs such as opioids. However, these drugs can be highly addictive and can lead to abuse.

The overreliance on these drugs to manage pain can create a vicious cycle of dependency, where seniors may increase their dosage and frequency of use, leading to a higher risk of addiction and overdose. Moreover, the long-term use of these drugs can also lead to tolerance, where the senior’s body becomes accustomed to the drug, making it less effective in managing the pain. This can further lead to increased dosage and frequency of use, leading to more risk of addiction and overdose. Therefore, it’s crucial to address the root cause of chronic pain and seek alternative forms of pain management that can help seniors deal with their pain without the risk of addiction and overdose.

The role of mental health conditions

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are another root of senior prescription drug abuse. Unfortunately, this is an issue that many seniors face. The emotional toll of these conditions can cause seniors to feel hopeless and overwhelmed, leading them to seek relief in prescription drugs which are often very addictive.

Two people hugging during a group therapy session
There are plenty of alternative and non-addictive ways to deal with anxiety, depression, or any other type of mental issues.

Moreover, these drugs can have negative side effects on their cognitive function, increasing the risk of falls and accidents. Therefore, it’s crucial to address the root cause of the mental health condition and seek alternative forms of treatment. For example, counseling and therapy can help seniors manage their mental health without the risk of addiction and overdose.

It’s also important to note that seniors may be more likely to hide their addiction due to the societal stigma and shame associated with substance abuse. That’s why it’s especially important to be vigilant and not overlook the signs. Make sure they understand they are not alone in their issues and you can even suggest group therapy as a great way to cope while building a reliable and strong support system.

The role of social isolation

Social isolation is another root of senior prescription drug abuse in seniors. The loss of a spouse, friend, or family member can be a difficult and painful experience that can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This feeling can be even more pronounced for seniors who live alone or in care facilities, causing them to feel disconnected from the world around them. The emotional pain, depression, and hopelessness that come with social isolation can lead seniors to seek relief in prescription drugs. This can lead to addiction where seniors may increase their dosage and frequency of use, leading to a higher risk of addiction and overdose.

Grandmother with her two grandchildren sitting on a couch and looking at a laptop
Because social isolation is one of the main causes of prescription drug abuse in seniors, make an effort to spend quality time with your beloved seniors and help them avoid feeling lonely or isolated.

Moreover, social isolation can also affect their physical and mental health, increasing the risk of falls, accidents, and cognitive decline. That’s why it’s important to find ways to deal with social isolation and seek alternative forms of engagement and connection. This could be through volunteering, community programs, and family involvement, which can help seniors combat social isolation and the associated emotional pain, without the risk of addiction and overdose.

The role of chronic illnesses

Seniors are also more likely to have multiple chronic illnesses, which require multiple medications, making it more difficult to keep track of the medication regimen. This increases the risk of medication errors, drug interactions, and, in the worst case, addiction. Also, as seniors age, their bodies metabolize drugs differently and they may be more sensitive to certain drugs, which can increase the risk of side effects and overdose. Additionally, seniors may also have cognitive decline or dementia which can make it more difficult for them to understand the instructions, risks, and side effects of their medication. This can also massively increase the risk of addiction and overdose.

Signs of prescription drug abuse to watch out for

We already mentioned that seniors may be more likely to hide their addiction due to the societal stigma and shame associated with substance abuse. That’s why it’s important to pay attention and instantly react if you notice any of the signs of prescription drug addiction. Experts from outpatient treatment Florida advise that there are three most common signs of prescription drug abuse in seniors you should look out for:

  1. One of the most common signs of prescription drug abuse in seniors is a change in their behavior. Seniors who are struggling with addiction may become increasingly isolated and withdrawn. They may also become more irritable or aggressive. Also, they may become more forgetful, disoriented, or confused. These changes in behavior can be an indication that they are struggling with addiction and may need help. If you notice any, don’t wait too long to react.
  2. Another sign of prescription drug abuse in seniors is a change in their physical appearance. Seniors who are struggling with addiction may lose weight or develop dark circles under their eyes. They may also have slurred speech or poor coordination. Make sure to pay attention to these signs and immediately react if you notice them.
  3. Lastly, another sign of prescription drug abuse in seniors is a change in their medication routine. Seniors who are struggling with addiction may start taking their medication in larger doses than prescribed or more frequently than prescribed. They may also start taking medication that was not prescribed to them. This is one of the surefire signs that your beloved senior is struggling with medication abuse and that they need your help.

Drugs that seniors commonly abuse

One of the main reasons why prescription drug abuse is a prevalent issue among seniors is that elderly individuals commonly use various prescriptions that have ingredients with a high potential for addiction. However, when it comes to frequency, two of the most frequently used drugs by elderly individuals are benzodiazepines and opioids.

  • Opioids, like Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin, are prescribed to control pain in users, but their high addiction potential makes them dangerous if not used as directed. Users abuse opioids by taking more than prescribed, using someone else’s prescription, or using them for a longer period than directed. Additionally, some users may alter the method of intake, such as crushing and snorting the pills, or combining the medications with other substances like alcohol. This can lead to addiction and dependency and can cause severe side effects, such as sedation, nausea, respiratory depression, confusion, and poor judgment.
  • Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin, are prescribed to help with anxiety, seizure control, muscle relaxation, insomnia, and/or panic attacks. But when users become dependent on these drugs, it can lead to negative effects on the user such as dizziness, lack of coordination, drowsiness, weakness, blurred vision, slurred speech, and a comatose state.
Film filled with green and white pills
There are numerous prescription drugs that are highly addictive and dangerous if not dosed in the correct way.

Elderly people also tend to abuse over-the-counter medications and health supplements, which may cause adverse effects on their health instead of helping them. These drugs are more easily accessible and may not signal any red flags to loved ones, making it harder to detect and prevent abuse. Therefore, we urge you to be extra vigilant and attentive to details.

Preventing prescription drug abuse in seniors

Now that you understand what are the most common causes of prescription drug abuse among seniors, it’s time to find out what are the ways to prevent this issue. Experts from couples rehab Boynton Beach advise that one of the most effective ways to prevent prescription drug abuse in seniors is by ensuring that they have access to alternative forms of pain management. This can include physical therapy, massage, and acupuncture. These therapies can be effective in managing chronic pain and may reduce the need for prescription drugs. Additionally, seniors can also benefit from non-opioid medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen, which can also be effective in managing pain.

Another way to prevent prescription drug abuse is by providing access to mental health services, such as counseling and therapy. This can help seniors manage conditions such as anxiety and depression without relying on prescription drugs. Additionally, seniors can also benefit from alternative therapy such as Mindfulness-based therapy, yoga, and meditation which can help them manage their mental health in a holistic way.

An elderly woman exercising in a gym
Focusing on a healthy lifestyle and finding non-addictive ways to deal with pain or mental health issues is crucial in preventing prescription drug abuse in seniors.

It is also important to make sure that seniors have access to treatment for addiction, especially if they have a dual diagnosis. This can include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and behavioral therapy. MAT is a form of treatment that uses medications to help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal and decrease the risk of relapse. Behavioral therapy can help seniors understand the underlying causes of their addiction and learn new coping mechanisms to manage their condition.

Education is the key!

Proper communication and education are crucial in preventing prescription drug abuse among seniors. Seniors, caretakers, and healthcare providers should have open communication and regular check-ins to ensure that the medication regimen is appropriate and that seniors understand the risks and side effects of their medications. Additionally, seniors should be informed about the risks of addiction and overdose, and know the signs to look out for. That’s the only way to decrease the number of seniors currently facing this issue and make sure it never goes up again.

Treatment and insurance options for prescription drug abuse in seniors

If you were not successful in preventing prescription drug addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Addressing prescription drug abuse early on can prevent addiction from taking hold. However, when addiction becomes severe, professional help is crucial. Also, it’s important for the process to be done in a controlled environment. When someone reaches a point of addiction, they are not only dependent on the medication physically but also mentally. Therefore, it’s close to impossible for them to overcome it on their own. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense, making residential drug treatment centers such as Bright Futures treatment center the best option for recovery.

Therapist talking to their client about prescription drug abuse in seniors
Experts from a rehab center you choose will talk to you and thoroughly examine your documentation before suggesting the most suitable treatment option.

Types of treatment available for prescription drug abuse

When it comes to deciding what type of treatment to go for, it’s best to consult professionals. After all, the type of treatment a person receives depends on the specific prescription drug, its properties, and the duration of misuse. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek the appropriate therapy for the specific addiction. For example, treatment for stimulants will differ from treatment for opioids. One of the biggest benefits of prescription drugs addiction treatment in Boynton Beach is that every individual who reaches out for help will get enrolled in a program suited to their individual needs.

Also, keep in mind that when searching for a treatment center, you shouldn’t choose the first one you find. Instead, it’s essential to research the credibility and success rate of the center, as well as the qualifications of the therapists. This can be done by reading reviews, client testimonials, and recommendations from others on multiple online platforms and forums. It’s also important to check the accreditation of the therapists working in the center, as misdiagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment and further consequences.

What prescription abuse treatment includes

If you’re dealing with a serious prescription drug addiction, it’s important to understand that you’ll need to go through a medical detox. This is necessary to remove the substance from the body and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s also the most uncomfortable and difficult part of the process for most people.

Once the medical detox is completed, individuals start with psychological treatment. It’s specifically tailored to their needs and pointed toward discovering underlying issues and teaching individuals how to cope with them in a healthy way. A good treatment center will also offer a relapse prevention plan which is crucial for long-term recovery. This plan should focus on replacing the need for prescription drugs with healthier coping mechanisms, and post-recovery therapy is essential to help the individual stay sober and avoid relapse.

Group of seniors doing yoga at a park near the beach
A lot of treatment centers offer alternative therapeutic options such as yoga or art therapy.

In addition to the aforementioned two, it’s also important for the treatment center to provide a comprehensive approach to recovery. This means addressing any co-occurring conditions such as chronic pain, depression, or anxiety, and providing support for the individual’s physical and emotional well-being. It’s also important for the treatment center to offer a variety of therapeutic options to cater to the individual’s needs. For example, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and alternative therapies such as art therapy, yoga, and meditation.

After the individual completes the treatment program, it’s important for them to have a solid aftercare plan in place. This can include ongoing therapy and support groups, as well as medication management and monitoring to ensure they continue to receive the care and support they need to maintain their sobriety.

Insurance options for prescription drug abuse treatment

Lastly, don’t forget to check if your insurance covers the prescription drug abuse treatment you need. Keep in mind that rehab centers often accept different insurance coverage options, each with different coverage for specific treatments. Make sure to check your insurance options and whether you qualify for them, and also check if drug rehab is covered under FMLA. When it comes to insurance accepted at Bright Futures treatment center, for example, there are plenty of providers to choose from and there’s a big chance yours is on the list, too.

Senior sitting at a desk with a table and a pile of papers in front of him
A lot of rehab centers accept different insurance so make sure to double-check if they accept yours.

For example, if you are a veteran, you might be wondering does Tricare cover alcohol rehab, prescription drug rehab, or other necessary treatments. Or, if you are wondering does Aetna cover drug rehab you’ll be happy to hear that the answer is yes. However, you’ll need to double-check if the rehab center you’ve chosen accepts it. The same goes in case you’re asking does Humana cover alcohol rehab or does Cigna cover drug rehab. Humana offers various insurance plans such as Medicaid and Medicare while Cigna can cover alcohol and drug rehab treatments, but it may not be fully accepted in every facility.

The bottom line

Unfortunately, prescription drug abuse among seniors is a pressing issue that requires attention and action. Only by educating and raising awareness of it can we make a step forward toward beating it. So we hope our article helped you understand prescription drug abuse in the elderly population, what causes it, how to prevent it, and, in the worst case, how to treat it.

Most importantly, remember that seniors may have a tendency to hide their addiction. That’s why it’s crucial to be mindful of the signs of addiction and pay attention to changes in their behavior. In case you notice anything strange, don’t wait too long but reach out to the rehab center Boynton Beach and make sure your beloved senior gets the help and care they need to overcome their prescription drug abuse issue.

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