Elderly population at high risk for prescription drug addiction

ST. LOUIS, MO - Elderly people make up 13-percent of the population in the state of Missouri, yet they consume a third of the medications prescribed. That puts them at risk for addiction.

Candi Finan is from Center Pointe Addiction Treatment Center.  She talks about the issue on FOX 2 News.

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Why are seniors more at risk for addiction to prescription drug abuse?

Seniors are at risk for falls, broken bones, aches, pains anxiety, and slowing bodily functioning, and too often, the solution is the proverbial prescription pad

Growing older slows down the liver's ability to filter medicines out of your body. This means that an older adult might become addicted to or have side effects from a prescription drug at a lower dose than a younger adult.

What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs?

Elderly adults commonly take two types of medicines that have a high potential for addiction:
- Opioids are prescription drugs used to control pain (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin)
- Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia (Valium, Xanax, Ativan).

Other prescription drugs used to control pain or treat sleeping problems may also cause addiction. A person can become addicted to and feel like he or she needs more of these drugs if the medicine is taken for a long period of time.

What are the symptoms of prescription drug abuse in seniors?
Behavior changes, such as becoming more withdrawn or angry
Getting a prescription for the same medicine from two different doctors
Taking more of a prescription medicine than they used to or take more than is instructed on the label
Filling a prescription for the same medicine at two different pharmacies
Taking the medicine at different times or more often than is instructed on the label
Often thinking or talking about a medicine
Being afraid to go without taking a medicine
Being uncomfortable or defensive when you ask about the medicine
Making excuses for why they need a medicine
Storing “extra” pills in their purse or in their pocket
Sneaking or hiding medicine

How is prescription drug abuse treated?
The treatment for prescription drug abuse depends on what drug is being abused, how addicted a person has become, and the risk of having a withdrawal of the drug.
Detoxification may be required and/or titrating (reducing medication in intervals) the patient off the medication.
It’s important to find the cause of the pain – is there a medical condition that can be treated without narcotics.
Pain medications can be prescribed for shorter periods of time.
Non-medical treatments such as physical therapy, walking, yoga, swimming can be implemented to control pain.