Society erroneously assumes prescription medication is only abused by the younger generations. Studies show, however, prescription drug abuse plagues men and women of all ages, including the elderly.
According to an article in the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States.” The article goes on to suggest that there are several ways in which an elderly person can abuse prescribed medication, such as:
• Abusing medication prescribed to a friend or family member in order to save money.
• Alternatively, the elder person has his/her medication taken by a friend or family member and running out of his/her supply early.
• Taking the incorrect dosage or type of medication to do mental decline.
Awareness is everyone’s responsibility, so be vigilant. There are cues that family, friends, and caregivers can recognize in order to intervene and get help as early as possible.
What should we be looking for?
• A loved one is showing signs of an unhealthy relationship with their medication, such as:
– Frequently talking about medicine
– A fear of running out or not having enough medication
– Taking a defensive stance after you ask about the medication
– Taking more than the prescribed amount or taking more often than prescribed
– Hiding or hoarding pills
• A loved one’s behavior and mood is changing, even if it seems associated with “old age” or illness. This could be a sign of chemical dependency.
• A past history of drug/alcohol abuse can make a person more susceptible.
If you suspect a loved one is abusing prescription medication, take action and talk to someone about it. A good first step is to contact the doctor prescribing the medication. He or she can help verify and/or validate your concerns, allowing you to take further action, if necessary.