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CenterPointe Hospital’s Dr. Javed Qasim Interviewed by FOX 2 St. Louis: Prescription Pain Medication Among the Elderly

Prescription Pain Medication in the Elderly

How serious is the problem?
Missourians 65 years of age or older make up only 13% of the population, yet they consume approximately 33% of all prescription drugs.

Why are seniors more at risk?
Seniors are at risk for falls, broken bones, aches, pains anxiety, and slowing bodily functioning, and too often, the solution is the proverbial prescription pad.

Growing older slows down the liver‘s ability to filter medicines out of your body. This means that an older adult might become addicted to or have side effects from a prescription drug at a lower dose than a younger adult.

What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs?
Elderly adults commonly take two types of medicines that have a high potential for addiction:
Opioids are prescription drugs used to control pain (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin)
Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia (Valium, Xanax, Ativan).

Other prescription drugs used to control pain or treat sleeping problems may also cause addiction. A person can become addicted to and feel like he or she needs more of these drugs if the medicine is taken for a long period of time.

What are the symptoms of prescription drug abuse in seniors?

How is prescription drug abuse treated?
The treatment for prescription drug abuse depends on what drug is being abused, how addicted a person has become, and the risk of having a withdrawal of the drug.

Detoxification may be required and/or titrating (reducing medication in intervals) the patient off the medication.

It’s important to find the cause of the pain – is there a medical condition that can be treated without narcotics.

Pain medications can be prescribed for shorter periods of time.

Non-medical treatments such as physical therapy, walking, yoga, swimming can be implemented to
control pain.