Perhaps, like many of us are prone to do, you have a preconceived notion of certain stereotypical groups of people. For example, what comes to mind when you hear the words “drug addict”? A young adult unable to cope with daily living without a fix, potentially resorting to a life of crime to fund his or her habit?
Think again! Senior drug abuse statistics don’t often come to mind when we think of our elderly loved ones, but you might be surprised to discover that many older adults are struggling with really serious addiction challenges - specifically, to opioids. Prescribed most often for short-term pain relief, opioids can result in addiction if used for a longer term. Nevertheless, the American Geriatric Society updated its guidelines in 2009 to strongly recommend their use in seniors, who, they reasoned, are less likely to become addicted.
Dr. Mel Pohl, of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, however, begs to differ. “There’s no factual, scientific basis for that. The drug takes over in the brain. It doesn’t matter how old the brain is,” he explains.
As many as 15% of patients are receiving an opioid prescription when leaving the hospital, and almost half of them are still taking that medication 3 months later. The potential to become addicted at that point is alarming. Opioids themselves can leave mature adults tired, groggy, and depressed, and the results of stopping the medicine once addicted may be more serious: nausea, perspiring, muscle aches, and more.
So what’s the remedy? Arming yourself with information and asking about safer alternatives to opioids for your mature loved ones is an excellent place to start. However, remember the fact that even over-the-counter pain medications can be hazardous for older people, making it hard for physicians to know how to best control senior pain - balancing dangers with the need to reduce suffering in older patients.
It really is important for all of us, no matter what age, to become familiar with our own conditions and treatment options, and make intelligent decisions in our care - and, to take medications exactly as prescribed by doctors, for the length of time they are prescribed.
Midnight Sun Home Care is doing our part to help reduce these senior drug abuse statistics. We can assist mature adults in various ways to help avoid opioid dependency. We can provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ appointments and procedures, pick up prescription medications, and provide medication reminders to make certain older adults are on track with appropriate medication management. Contact us any time at (907) 677-7890 to discover more ways we can help keep your senior loved one in Alaska stay safe and well, right at home.