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Older Americans Becoming More Prone to Substance Abuse

prescription drugs for older adultsWith all of the talk about young people getting hooked on heroin and other opioids in recent months, one of the fastest rising age groups for substance abuse is adults aged 50 and older. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, illicit drug use has nearly tripled among older Americans in the past dozen years or so.

Substances of particular note include alcohol and prescription drugs. A recent article in the New York Times points out several reasons that these people have become more susceptible to drug dependency. Among prescription drugs, painkillers and anti-anxiety medications were the most common in creating problems.

Along with joint pain and other symptoms associated with getting older, there are additional health-related issues that make it easy for people in this age range to get prescriptions for. What makes it difficult for the doctors is not being able to tell just how much pain or anxiety they are feeling, so they often have to take their patients’ word for it. It doesn’t take long for a dependency to develop, especially for an already-weakened system. In as little as seven to ten days someone can get hooked on their pills and experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking them.

When these people do become dependent and start abusing them, their relative age and position in life makes doctors and pharmacists less suspicious of them. This more trusting attitude can lead to prolonged doctor-shopping and prescription drug fraud.

More efforts to curb this type of behavior have come in the form of new prescribing recommendations from the CDC for opioids as well as better use of existing prescription drug monitoring programs.

If you have a loved one dealing with a drug or alcohol problem, contact Genesis House today to see how we can help.