Our seniors are at risk of misuse


Family Recovery Center publicist

Does anyone start out with the intention of becoming addicted to something? Probably not. And it has nothing to do with how moral they are or aren’t. It’s not that they weren’t strong enough to resist. A lot of the problem of addiction is that it is so complex.

“Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing, brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her,” says the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. Brain changes affect the addict’s ability for self-control making it difficult to resist drugs. The need is so intense, stopping is a huge challenge, even if they want to get clean.

Recently, Join Together Online reported that use of narcotic pain relievers among the elderly is rising sharply, not so surprising when you consider the huge population of baby boomers. USA Today estimates one in five of the country’s 43 million older Americans receive Medicare prescriptions for opioid painkillers, often for long periods. And in 2012, more than 700,000 older patients were prescribed anti-anxiety medications for approximately five months, on average.

The article also quotes Group Health Research in Seattle, stating, “[E]lderly patients who take opioids or anti-anxiety medications are at increased risk of injuries from falls, cognitive problems and impaired breathing.” And the risks are higher when a combination of drugs are used.

“Misuse and abuse of these medicines is not uncommon among the elderly,” said Michael Von Korff of Group Health Research. “They do get into trouble with these drugs.”

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on Aging) advises that older adults are among the higher risk for medication misuse and abuse because they use more prescription and over-the-counter medications. They are more sensitive to increased medication, and suffer more pain, sleep disorders/insomnia, and anxiety, which is common in the older generation.

There are more ER visits related to misuse by older persons, and some babyboomers are OK with using prescription and illicit drugs for the desired effects. However, problem misuse among older adults is usually not intended. Their prescriptions are gotten properly for legitimate health conditions. But when they are misused and left unaddressed, addiction becomes a problem.

Misuse is:

-?Dose level more than prescribed.

-?Longer duration than prescribed.

-?Used for purposes other than prescribed.

-?Used with other medications or alcohol.

-?Skipping doses or hoarding the drug.

Abuse is:

-?Using and declining physical or social function.

-?Hazardous use in risky situations.

-?Continue to use despite adverse social or personal consequences.

Dependence is:

-?Use resulting in tolerance or withdrawal symptoms.

-?Unsuccessful attempts to stop or control use.

-?Preoccupation with attaining or using the drug.

“Misuse and abuse are distinct from medication mismanagement problems like forgetting to take medications or confusion or lack of understanding about proper use,” advises SAMHSA. Those mismanagement problems can also have serious consequences and require interventions of a different kind.

Talk to your health care provider and pharmacist about your concerns for prescription medications and be proactive with your good health.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information about FRC, addiction, and programs, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.