Typically, as people get older they require more medical attention and may be prescribed medication for anything from high blood pressure to prescription opiates for an old knee injury. People are living a lot longer than before and as a result people may end up taking prescription drugs for extended periods of time. In Florida, where there is a larger population of the elderly, doctor shopping can be done with relative ease considering that officials are unlikely to question whether or not a senior citizen needs medication. Now, addiction professionals are seeing an influx of people over 50 needing interventions and substance abuse treatment. Nearly three in 10 people between ages 57 to 85 use at least five prescriptions, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“There are physical, psychological and social factors that make elderly people more vulnerable to addiction,” Angela Conway of the South Miami Hospital’s Addiction Treatment Center, told the Miami Herald. There are a number of variables that could be associated with elderly drug abuse:
- joint pain
- old injuries
- sleeping problems
- loss of loved ones
As people get older their mind tends to not function as sharply, memory loss is quite common which is not good when it comes to taking prescription drugs that have been regimented by a doctor. The rate of hospital admissions for problems associated with prescription medications and illicit drugs rose by 96 percent among people ages 65 and 84 between 1997 and 2008; for people 85 and older, admissions grew 87 percent. It is not hard to see that those statistics are pretty alarming and people who have older loved ones should keep an eye if there is any suspicion of a problem. The misuse of medication can cause a host of harmful side effects, drug-induced delirium and even dementia according to SAMHSA.
Becoming dependent on prescription drugs can also lead to people trying illegal drugs, as people naturally develop tolerances to medications. Searching out stronger substances, even by the elderly, is not difficult to imagine.