Recognizing Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction in the Elderly

Recognizing Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction in the Elderly

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Recognizing Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction in the Elderly.


Addiction does not discriminate. In fact, addiction can affect the rich, poor, well educated, all races, and all ages. This means that whether you are 25 or 90, addiction can become an issue. While those who are aged are not as likely to become addicted to illegal drugs, a dependence on prescription drugs is always possible. If you or someone you know and love that is elderly may have an issue with prescription drugs, then you should know the warning signs and know where to get help. The remainder of this article will discuss the signs of prescription drug addiction in the elderly. As well as the treatment options available to this population.

Signs of Prescription Abuse in the Elderly

Prescription drug abuse is defined by the using of prescription drugs in a way that is not consistent with a doctor’s orders. This can include taking medications incorrectly or to continue taking medication that is no longer needed. It may also include taking prescriptions meant for someone else. Or even mixing medications with other drugs or even alcohol. This can lead to a serious problem such as overdose, addiction, or even unexpected interactions. This can also lead to necessary medications not working properly or at all. While most prescription drugs are safe when taken as prescribed, not following directions can be problematic.

The majority of older adults who suffer from prescription drug abuse have come to the point by accident. As this age group takes more medication than other populations. Most use at least five prescriptions regularly, the risk for mixing up medications or improper use is heightened.

Opioids and Benzodiazepines

Any type of prescription medication can be abused. However, with the elderly population there are two main types that have a potential for addiction. These include opioids and benzodiazepines. Opioids are used to control pain. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety or insomnia.

It can be difficult to distinguish prescription drug abuse and the typical signs of aging in the elderly. Mostly because the symptoms are very much alike. This can include memory loss, confusion, and even lack of coordination. However, if you are caring for someone elderly and notice the following signs, a problem may exist.

Anyone who receives the same medication from two separate doctors or fills the same prescription at two different pharmacies may have a problem. Taking more of a medication or taking it more often than prescribed, as well as becoming withdrawn or angry can point to addiction. Often discussing medication, appearing confused, forgetful, or afraid to leave without medications in hand are also red flags. If the person has been treated before for drug or alcohol abuse, hides medication, stores ‘extra pills’ or makes excuses why more medication is needed, then a problem needs to be addressed.

Seeking Help

If you suspect someone you know is abusing prescription medication, or notice signs of prescription drug addiction then contact their doctor immediately. A medical professional can offer an evaluation and diagnosis of whether a problem exists. The doctor will also determine the best treatment options for that individual. While it is unlikely that all prescriptions can be removed simply due to issues related to age, a stricter regime can be set up to control any possible abuse. Treatment may include medication to help addiction, counseling, or a combination of the two. Your loved one may not even know a problem exists, this is why being aware and ever vigilant is so important.

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