The Origins of Senior Addiction


The Opioid Epidemic Has No Age Limit

Efforts to prevent drug abuse often focus on teens and young adults. A part of the opioid crisis to which few people pay attention is the risk of drug and alcohol addiction for seniors.

For everyone, changes in lifestyle and health represent significant stress. As stress mounts and health deteriorates, some may seek relief in self-medication and alcohol.

For people entering their senior years, a variety of life changes can mount or occur simultaneously:

  • The aches and pains of an aging body.
  • Retirement, reduced income, and financial problems.
  • Relocation of home or moving to a senior facility.
  • Loss of friends and neighbors, or the death of a spouse.
  • Decline of physical health, resulting in surgeries or new medications.
  • Decline of mental health, including depression and cognitive impairment.

Something as simple as trouble sleeping can prompt a trip to the doctor and a prescription.

There’s nothing wrong with taking prescription medication when necessary, and most doctors care about their patients’ well-being and the communities they serve. However, even medical training and good intentions are not always enough.

Mistakes and Miscalculations

In 1998, Purdue Pharma praised the use of OxyContin, telling doctors “They don’t wear out; they go on working; they do not have serious medical side effects. These drugs, our best, and strongest pain medications, should be used much more than they are for patients in pain.”

As it turns out, OxyContin does have a serious side effect: addiction. The drug itself became known as Hillbilly Heroin.

Another issue is that even medically appropriate prescriptions of pain killers like Vicodin and Percocet assume that proper dosing and scheduling will be followed at home.

Senior’s lifestyles may bring with them more complexity than physicians anticipate.

  • Seniors tend to see more medical professionals and receive more treatment, including prescriptions, than each individual office may know about.
  • Seniors may be taking medication for anxiety, insomnia, or dealing with personal stresses using alcohol.
  • Seniors suffering from depression or the early stages of mental decline may willfully or inadvertently misuse prescription pain killers.

Addiction Often Mimics Symptoms of Disease and Aging

Making the situation more difficult, alcohol and drug abuse problems in seniors can mimic other diseases or conditions associated with aging. Impaired memory, confusion, and trouble sleeping could all be rooted in natural aging or drug induced.

Where drug testing may have a punitive or correctional reputation at times with the young, for seniors it could become a part of routine treatment. Knowing what drugs are present at what levels can only help doctors treat and prescribe properly for an elderly population

At Drug Testing Program Management, we work with drug testing labs across the country to supply proven testing supplies, high-sensitivity analyzers, confirmation analyzers, and comprehensive laboratory support, management, and consulting services.

To learn more, call us today at 256-979-1533, or visit our Contact Us page.

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