The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have gathered information that indicates that millions of elderly Americans are being over prescribed medications that are extremely addictive and potentially harmful. The types of drugs that are considered most harmful for senior citizens to take are benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan) and prescription painkillers (OxyContin, Percocet). This information comes after another study was released showing a direct correlation between elderly patients that were prescribed Xanax and those that suffer from dementia. MentalHelp.net has a group of researchers that decided to look into the information released by CMS. They found that not only is there an exorbitant amount of potentially dangerous prescriptions being given to the elderly, but that certain areas in the country are bigger offenders than others.
Despite warnings by the American Geriatrics Society, the medical community continues to supply adults over the age of 65 drugs that threaten to shorten their life span. While proponents of palliative care say that many of these drugs help improve the quality of life for patients with pain and other issues that the elderly are more susceptible to, there is ample evidence showing that these drugs can sometimes do more harm than good.
Regionally, it appears that the Southeastern part of the country is the largest contributor to this trend. West Virginia, Tennessee and Florida have the most senior citizens being prescribed Valium and Xanax. Researchers took a broader look at all the prescription drugs that are considered harmful to adults over the age of 65 and it was found that the majority of these over prescribing practices were occurring in the Southern part of the country. Interestingly, these states also report some of the highest levels of prescription drug abuse, regardless of age.
This is simply one more reason why prescription drug use should have tighter regulation, as there are many unintended consequences, including abuse and addiction, at all ages. Prescribing practices and prescription drug monitoring programs can be improved to ensure better care for patients while reducing the glut of drugs in our communities.