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Opioid Addiction Hits Seniors Too | Generations Home Care
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    Arizona Opioid Addiction

    There’s been quite a bit of recent talk in the media and from politicians about America’s opioid epidemic. If you don’t personally know someone suffering from addiction, all this talk might seem rather abstract. But a close look at the statistics reveals the true extent of the crisis. According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die everyday due to overdoses. The report also offers these sobering statistics:

    • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
    • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
    • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
    • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

    This addiction comes at a tremendously high social cost. The same report estimates that “the total ‘economic burden’ of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.” As if this isn’t scary enough, a just-released study claims that opioid deaths are actually going underreported. Due to misclassifications, 8,000 more Americans could be dying from opioids every year.

    Regardless of the actual number, there’s widespread agreement that the problem will get much worse before it gets better. By some estimates, deaths from opioids could pass 650,000 over the next decade. If those predictions play out, they will roughly match the number of deaths from breast and prostate cancer. It would also top the total number of death from HIV/AIDS during the height of the epidemic.

    Seniors are Susceptible to Opioid Addiction

    Some might assume that it’s younger people who are most susceptible to opioid addiction, but the data doesn’t support that idea. In fact, statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that the percentage of total deaths in the US hold steady for ages 25-54 and falls only slightly for those 55 or older. To put it simply, age isn’t a protection against opioid addiction. A recent study of Medicare recipients found that in 2011, 14.9% were prescribed an opioid when discharged from the hospital. Three months later, 42% were still taking the medicine.

    So what’s driving all this? In the early 2000’s, doctors began prescribing more opioid pain relievers believing they weren’t likely to cause addiction. This reached its peak in 2010, when the prescribed amount of opioids per capita had tripled from 1999. While the total number of prescriptions has fallen since then, it hasn’t happened quickly enough to stem the crisis. To further fuel the problem, medicine has yet to find an effective pain reliever to replace opioids. So those with chronic pain, cancer, or other conditions can choose between enduring the pain or rolling the dice with opioids.

    Until there’s a better solution for pain management, seniors should guard their health carefully. Don’t just accept a pain prescription. Do your research and fight for alternative pain control methods such as acupuncture when available. And if you do have to take opioids, get off them as soon as possible.

    Take Control of Your Health

    For some seniors, monitoring their own medication usage can be a challenge. And as we’ve seen, this can have devastating consequences. One of the many benefits In Home Care provides is a second set of eyes to monitor and document prescription drug usage. If you live in the greater Phoenix area, and would like to learn more about our services, give us a call at 602-595-HOME (4663). The opioid crisis isn’t going to go away on its own. We all need to take responsibility for the people closest to us, and we should start with those who are most vulnerable.

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