The latest research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that about 1.7 million Americans misuse or are addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. Nearly 30 percent of patients that get prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse the medication.
These statistics include a growing number of older Americans who take prescription opioids to manage pain. Unfortunately, seniors who misuse opioids face a variety of health risks.
Why More Seniors Are Taking Opioids
As people age, they’re more likely to get diseases that cause chronic pain. In addition to discomfort, the pain can cause problems like:
- Loss of appetite.
- Sleep disorders.
- Uncharacteristic mood changes.
- Low energy.
Opioids offer the relief that seniors need to continue their lives without these disruptions. Doctors prescribe the drugs so often because they work so well at blocking pain. Unfortunately, many patients misuse or become addicted to the drugs.
The Negative Effects of Opioid Misuse
Misusing opioids can lead to numerous short-term and long-term health problems. Seniors who take large doses of their medications may experience:
- Slow breathing.
- Poor coordination that can lead to falls.
After several weeks or months of misuse, patients often develop symptoms like:
There’s also the chance that a patient will overdose on prescription painkillers. Overdosing on opioids depresses the respiratory system. Normally, you don’t have to think about breathing. Your body does it automatically. Opioids, however, can prevent the body from breathing normally, which puts seniors at risk of strokes and suffocation.
Preventing Opioid Misuse Among Seniors
Families and healthcare providers have plenty of opportunities to prevent opioid misuse among seniors.
Doctors that prescribe medications should pay close attention to the doses they give patients. They should also limit the number of refills that patients can get. Taking opioids for an extended period will cause addiction. Doctors need to monitor all patients, including seniors, to prevent addiction.
Families can take action by staying involved in their loved one’s care. If your loved one has dilated pupils, poor coordination, or sudden mood changes, then you should ask about the person’s medications.
Of course, you can’t monitor your loved one at all times. It helps to get assistance from an in home senior care provider that can administer and track medications.
If you need help caring for a senior in your life, contact Angel Companions to learn more about our services. Every precaution that you take will make it less likely that your loved one misuses or becomes addicted to opioids.