prescription drug bottle and white pillsMost people take medications only for the reasons needs and as prescribed by for their doctors.

But an estimated 20 percent o people in the Unites States have use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.

Experts don’t know why this increase is happening but the ease and availability of prescription drugs, is probably a main reason. It is increasingly ease for older adults to obtain multiple prescriptions.

Elderly at risk for prescription drug abuse is increasing and quickly becoming an epidemic. One main cause of elderly community abusing prescription drugs is usually caused by having medicines prescribed by more than one doctor. As we age, the number of doctors and specialists tend to increase. In addition to having just one primary care doctor, many older adults have a podiatrist, cardiologist, neurologist, among others. With no one managing this holistic care, many elderly people can have multiple prescriptions to highly addictive drugs. It is not uncommon for an elderly person to be on over 13 prescription pills per day! (This also highlights the importance of a Geriatric Care Manager to oversee all these doctor appointments and multiple prescriptions.)

The increased use of prescription drugs has brought pain relief too many and often improved the quality of life for elderly patients but the negative side effects are over looked. With that increase in use and availabity of prescription medication especially controlled substances brings an increased potential for prescription drug abuse, especially in older adults.  Chronic pain is a chief complaint of most older adults and the use of prescription pain killers, although meant for good, can easily lead to a dependency and abuse of the drug.

An elderly at risk for prescription drug abuse may
• Get a prescription for the same medicine from 2 different doctors
• File a prescription for the same medicine at 2 different pharmacies
• Take more than they used to or take more than instructed on the label

Last but not least an elderly person abusing prescribed drugs might be afraid to without taking a medicine. The elderly community is a very vulnerable community and are nervous that if they do not take all the medicine, as prescribed by all the doctors, that there will be a negative consequence.

The treatment for senior drug abuse depends on what drug is being abused, the severity of the addiction and the risk of withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for an older adult may include medicine and counseling or both, your elderly loved ones doctor will help him or her find the right treatment. Although a behavioral or pharmacological approach alone may be sufficient for treating older adults, research shows that a combined approach may be best. The most important thing is to keep open lines of communication with your aging parent about this topic and their feelings.

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