Maybe you’re reading this because there’s a parent or grandparent in your life whose behavior is causing you worry due to potential opiate dependency. Could there possibly be in your household a senior citizen addicted to opiates? As they used to say in the Sixties, you bet your sweet bippy there could.
Here are some startling statistics recently cited by the experts at the Hazelden Foundation: Among people 60 years or older, 17 percent of them knowingly abuse drugs. Not all elderly people set out to become addicted, but this segment of the population actually consumes about a third of all prescription drugs. Sixty percent of elderly women take both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Of all the hydrocodone that’s taken, 52 percent of it goes to people over the age of 65. The average length of time the doctor prescribes this medicine for an older person is 69 days.
The last five years have seen a 32 percent increase in the number of senior citizens prescribed narcotic analgesics. They grew up learning you did not question the doctor’s orders. Back in those days, opiate pain pills were reserved for cancer or other terminally ill patients. Most senior citizens these days are surprised how easy it is to get a pain pill prescription.
For the senior citizen addicted to opiates, there are additional factors. Seniors take multiple medications for several medical disorders. They often see several physicians, and they are more likely to utilize multiple pharmacies. They tend to become easily confused when the doctor talks to them about their meds—all they need to know is that the doctor prescribed it. Their degree of compliance with doctors’ orders, however, tends to be low.
What To Look For With Senior Opiate Dependency
Addiction in an elderly person may be difficult to diagnose because the person may be retired and thus exhibits no job problems. If his hands shake, you think it may be Parkinson’s or essential tremors. You notice bruises, but you assume his arthritis causes him to stumble. If he has difficulty remembering something, it could mean the beginning of Alzheimer’s.
If you have an elderly family member who might be addicted, try initiating a conversation about the person’s medications: “With the increasing number of medications you have to take, it’s possible some of them are interfering with others. Let’s go over them.” If you care about an elderly person who may be abusing pain pills, call your local methadone clinic for guidance.