Opioid Prescription Addiction In Older Adults.
Addiction in Older Adults
Addiction does not discriminate. Anyone of any age, race, religion, and ability has the chance of addiction. While we may have a picture of what an addict looks like in mind, looks alone are not a predictable way to determine addiction. This means that even though it is often hard to consider, even aging parents, grandparents, and the elderly can have an addiction to any substance. While addiction in older adults is typically related to prescription medications. One such addiction that is common is to that of opioids. This abuse can occur due to transitional life events such as divorce, empty nest, or even loss of a parent. This is the fastest growing age group when it comes to overdoses.
Many legal opioids are used in medical practices. These are often given to older adults to control pain, though they are also used for short term pain after surgery. These are narcotic type prescription medications that fall into the same category as heroin. But for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the legal prescription form of opioids. As people age, aches and pains become a part of every day life. Older adults are also more likely to undergo surgery for aging body parts and failing organs. These types of problems are often treated with narcotics, specifically opioids, as part of the treatment. This also means that older adults are more likely to have an easy supply of opioids. That being said, many older adults who become addicted to opioids do so by accident.
Common Types of Opioids
One of the best known and often abused opioid is Oxycodone or Oxycontin. However, other common opioids include codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Methadone, and Morphine. Each of these are given for various reasons, but all typically relate to pain, either short or long term.
The symptoms of opioid abuse in seniors is often difficult to recognize. Many of the symptoms are similar to those of typical aging. These include memory loss, forgetfulness, and even loss of balance on occasion. These alone may simply be an aging parent or grandparent. However when paired with other warning signs, help from a professional should be sought.
Other signs to look out for include changes in behavior. Such as buying prescriptions from more than one pharmacy, hiding pills, becoming more anxious when medication is not available, or even going to several doctors for the same prescription. The effects of medication, when abused and in general, for older adults is stronger because of a slowing metabolism. You may also notice the older adult start withdrawing from typical social activities. Thus, making more impulsive decisions. Some may even have dramatic mood swings. Sadly many of these can also be symptoms of simple aging and age related diseases. If there is any concern you should contact the person’s physician to get a medical opinion.
A doctor can assess and diagnose any problem that may exist and offer referrals if needed. Stay vigilant when dealing with aging loved ones who take several medications. If a problem is suspected it is better to be safe than allow your loved one to fall into prescription drug abuse.
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