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Older Adults Face Substance Abuse In Silence

When the issue of opioid abuse is mentioned the thought of the stereotypical addict is brought to mind. However, there is a hidden population that is in need of being discussed.

Senior citizens contribute a large percentage to prescribed narcotic pain relievers. Unfortunately, abuse of the opioids among this population is also prevalent. However, it may not be necessarily out of will, but unintentionally. In addition, many suffer from depression that has also opened the door to abusing alcohol. This presents a growing problem as this generation is prideful and less apt to ask for help.

The elderly that live within senior housing are self-medicating with opioids or through the use of alcohol to combat their depression, as many live without companionship or present family. Therefore, there is a strong need to provide counseling services to alleviate their symptoms and provide better management of their medications.

The other cause of drug abuse among senior citizens is medication management. The misuse of drugs is not always due to their own intention but rather by misunderstanding. Many elderly are on multiple prescriptions and without family or a caregiver present to help with the dosage of each drug, the simple act of taking their daily prescriptions can be overwhelming and confusing. Not to mention prescriptions side effects are tested based on the individual taking that drug alone.

There is no study that can report on how each different medication will react with another. Therefore some medications may be amplifying others that the senior has been prescribed, and can then put them into a haze where they are not necessarily themselves. This leads to taking medications too often or at the wrong times.

With help and someone to hold them accountable, this problem can easily be alleviated.  This can be the most effective way to combat mismanagement of prescribed drugs as an outside individual can help with the deliverance of the medications as well as relay the effects of the drugs to the senior’s primary care provider. However, for many this has not been an option and will remain not one. There is a need for a better method of management for the elderly by doctors and pharmacists in these individuals’ cases.

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