Elderly drug abuse is a growing trend in the United States. It often goes untreated and unreported due to overprescribing and stigma. There is a high risk of drug abuse and addiction among the elderly, with so many senior citizens relying on medicine and prescription painkillers due to their ailments. According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, substance abuse among the elderly is “one of the fastest growing health problems in this country.” According to recent statistics, 17 percent of adults aged 60 or over struggle with an alcohol or drug problem, and by 2020, that number is expected to double to six million.
Frederic Blow, the man in charge of addiction research at the University of Michigan medical school, stated that the amount of elderly Americans using opioids is “astounding.” Opioid use and abuse is not just a young people’s problem; rather, close to a third of patients on Medicare received at least one opioid prescription in 2015. Seniors on Medicare are prone to abusing Percocet, OxyContin, fentanyl, and Vicodin. According to a recent study from Stanford University, seniors have among the “highest and most rapidly growing prevalence of opioid use disorder.” More than six out of every 1,000 Medicare patients struggles with opioid abuse. And unfortunately, Medicare often does not cover addiction treatment, leaving many elderly Americans without treatment and support.
Another issue is the underreporting of elderly drug overdose deaths. According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who runs a group of addiction treatment centers in New York, due to the advanced age of the deceased, many drug overdose deaths are written off as age-related on death certificates.
Last week, a 64-year-old LaPorte nursing home resident overdosed on heroin. The woman had previously tried to steal powerful prescription painkillers from the nurses. This incident is an indication of the ongoing opioid epidemic in the elderly population. These older heroin users, like many of the younger users, turn to heroin because of an addiction to prescription painkillers.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to opiates or any type of drug or alcohol, reach out to Addiction Intervention Now today.