Previously on this blog, we addressed prescription pill abuse among teens and college students. In addition, we recently noted that heroin use is on the rise among young adults in small towns. Today, we'll discuss another demographic that is all too often overlooked in this discussion: The elderly.
Back in 2008, the periodical Prevention Tactics published a report on senior drug abuse, noting that approximately 2.7 million Americans over 50 years of age were projected to abuse prescription pills by 2020, based on documented trends at the time. Patients over the age of 65 accounted for about a third of prescriptions in the United States when the report was published, though they only made up 13 percent of the total population.
While many older adults are contending with several severe medical issues, the opportunity to misuse these medications or develop a dependency is clear. The senior living news outlet A Place For Mom notes that instances of abuse may be much harder to identify among this population, as some symptoms could overlap with the cognitive decline we associate with old age.
So what exactly can be done to identify and address prescription pill abuse among the elderly? One method of intervention lies in altering prescription pills themselves. Painkillers are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for this population, and are the focus of ongoing research.
In a briefing paper on prescription drug abuse, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced that it was, "leading efforts to develop pain medications with diminished abuse potential, such as those that bypass the reward system of the brain. This is particularly important in light of returning veteran and growing elderly populations. To that end, NIDA is supporting research to better understand how to effectively treat people with chronic pain."
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