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Prescription drugs over prescribed to seniors

USA Today reports there is a growing epidemic among seniors: hundreds of thousands of them are addicted to prescription drugs or misusing them. The trend has become alarming as healthcare professionals continue to prescribe highly addictive prescription drugs at record levels to seniors.

Prescription drugs on the rise


 

Doctors want to offer solutions, but sometimes for the elderly there’s not much they can do to reduce their pain and discomfort except offer prescription drugs. And offer they do. Reports indicate seniors are taking a record number of prescription drugs which including transdermal patches laced with fentanyl, morphine, hydrocodone, Xanax, and other anxiety medications.

While prescribing prescription drugs may seem harmless - it’s not. Hospitals are starting to see an increase in visits to the E.R., increased participation in treatment programs for those addicted to prescription drugs and an increase in overdose deaths.

According to Mel Pohl, medical director at the Las Vegas Recovery Center, it is not unusual for doctors to want to make a senior’s life better and the best way they know how to do that is to prescribe medication.

Unfortunately, the more prescription drugs prescribed, the higher tolerance level for the drugs. More and more prescription drugs must be prescribed to achieve the same result, which can lead to serious health consequences for the patient including respiratory failure, dementia and increased cognitive issues.

Over medicating is not likely to stop any time soon


 

Experts realize the trend of medicate first, treat later lends itself to a growing number of seniors misusing prescription drugs. How bad is the problem? According to data provided by IMS Health, “There were 55 million opioid prescriptions written last year for people 65 and over marked a 20% increase over five years — nearly double the growth rate of the senior population.”

Not only are prescription drugs increasingly over prescribed, they are also misused. According to another survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “In 2012, the average number of seniors misusing or dependent on prescription pain relievers in the past year grew to an estimated 336,000, up from 132,000 a decade earlier.”

Seniors at greatest risk from over medicating


 

Seniors suffer from more serious health concerns then younger patients, they are prescribed higher doses of medications, but they also face the highest risks. Medical experts agree that doctors and patients both need more information about the dangers of over prescribing medications.

Seniors also seem more inclined to seek drugs for a variety of health conditions. Studies have shown that when patients ask for certain medications they are more likely to get them, but ending dependence on medications may be key.

Doctors may not only need better training and education, they may also need to learn to say no to their patients. Doctors can also work with patients to develop a treatment plan. For instance, if patients really do need medications they need a plan for how long they will be used. Ignorance should not be an excuse for doctors to simply write more prescriptions and for patients to blindly follow their advice.

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