Certain groups of people are typically stereotyped, and it can be hard not to have preconceived ideas of what these people are actually like. Think about the words “drug addict”. What immediately comes to your mind? A young adult struggling to get through daily living without a fix, potentially resorting to a life of crime to fund his or her habit?
If that is so, you may be surprised to discover that seniors are breaking the mold, inadvertently experiencing considerable addiction concerns – specifically, to opioids. Although opioids are typically prescribed for only short-term pain relief, longer term usage of the drugs can result in addiction. And yet, the American Geriatric Society updated its guidelines in 2009 to highly recommend their use in older adults, who, they reasoned, are less likely to become addicted.
Dr. Mel Pohl, of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, has a different opinion. “There’s no factual, scientific basis for that. The drug takes over in the brain. It doesn’t matter how old the brain is,” he explains.
As many as 15% of patients are receiving an opioid prescription when leaving the hospital, and almost half of them are still taking that medication 3 months later. The potential to become addicted at that point is alarming. Opioids themselves may leave mature adults fatigued, groggy, and depressed, and the effects of quitting the medication once dependent can be more serious: queasiness, perspiring, muscle aches, and more.
So what’s the answer? Supplying yourself with knowledge and asking about less risky alternatives to opioids for your senior loved ones is a good place to start. But keep in mind that even over-the-counter pain meds could be hazardous for aging adults, making it challenging for medical professionals to know the best way to manage senior pain – balancing risks with the need to remove suffering in elderly patients.
It’s very important for all of us, no matter what age, to become familiar with our own conditions and treatment options, and make intelligent decisions in our care – and, to take medications exactly as prescribed, for the length of time they are prescribed.
North River Home Care of the Boston area can assist older persons in a number of ways to help avoid opioid addiction. We can provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ visits and procedures, pick up medications, and provide medication reminders to make certain seniors are on track with effective medication management. Contact us any time at (781) 659-1366 to find out more ways we can help keep your senior loved one safe and well, right at home.