Prescription drug addiction in elders-What you should know

December 17, 2018 0

Prescription drug addiction in the elderly is a problem that’s on the rise.

According to the Substance Abuse Among Older Adults Study, prescription drug abuse for people over 50 will increase from around 2.8 million in 2006 to 5.7 million by 2020.

This is alarming and deserves everyone’s attention.

In this post, we will talk about what you can do to help an elderly loved one with a prescription drug addiction.

Prescription drug addiction in older adults-what you should know

The elderly are prone to prescription drug addiction for a couple of key reasons. First, they take more prescription drugs than many other age groups. The more prescription you take, the more opportunity you have to become addicted.

Also, as you age, your body doesn’t filter or absorb medication as quickly. This means the drugs are staying in the system longer, and it’s easier to become addicted.

Finally, the elderly often have memory troubles. What starts off as innocently forgetting that they took their medicine earlier can slowly pave the way to an addiction.

What prescriptions do older adults get addicted to?

While you can become addicted to any medication, two main categories of prescriptions often lead to addiction in older adults: opioids and benzodiazepines.

Opioids are pain killers. These include OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. Taking too high of a dose or relying on prescription strength pain medication are common ways addiction to opioids begin.

Benzodiazepines treat anxiety and insomnia. Valium, Xanax, and Ativan are all benzodiazepines. Taking these drugs for an extended period of time can lead to addiction.

What are signs of prescription drug addiction in older adults?

If your loved one takes prescription medication regularly, it’s possible for them to become addicted. As a caregiver, you need to know what to watch for.

The following are all signs and symptoms of an addiction:

  • Mood changes, including becoming more irritable or depressed
  • Unexplained marks, cuts, or bruises on the body
  • Changes in energy levels, especially lethargy
  • Personality changes, including becoming angry
  • Staying up all night and sleeping all day
  • Having two different doctors write a prescription for the same medication
  • Appearing forgetful or confused, including losing track of time
  • Sneaking medication
  • Going to more than one pharmacy for prescriptions
  • Keeping extra medication in a pocket or purse
  • Obsessed with talking about a certain medication
  • Not following directions for taking medication
  • Have a history of drug abuse or addiction
  • Regularly taking medication with alcohol
  • Getting upset if asked about medication use

Many of these symptoms are also related to aging. This makes identifying an addiction problem a challenge.

What to do if you suspect an addiction

If your loved one has many of the symptoms above, and you suspect an addiction, it’s essential to speak to their doctor. An evaluation can help the doctor determine if there is an addiction.

You can also contact a drug addiction treatment center to help your loved one get the necessary treatment.

What does treatment entail?

Your loved one’s treatment plan for a prescription drug addiction will be tailored to address their needs. The drug they are addicted to, how long they’ve been abusing the medication, and side-effects of withdrawal are taken into account.  

When working with your loved one’s doctor to form a treatment plan, counseling, medication, and inpatient facilities may be considered.  

Do you know a caregiver who needs to know more about prescription drug abuse in the elderly? Share this article so they can help their loved one overcome the addiction.


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