Addressing Prescription Drug Addiction in Older Adults

WHEN THINKING ABOUT prescription drug addiction, one might understandably and automatically picture a young adult. Those 18 to 25 years of age “are the biggest abusers of prescription … opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, research shows that there’s been a surge over the past decade in opioid misuse – which includes heroin as well as the powerful prescription pain narcotics like fentanyl fueling an overdose epidemic – in older adults.

In fact, between 2002 and 2014, opioid abuse nearly doubled in those 50 and older (from about 1 to 2 percent), while declining in younger age groups. And a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released in September found that, among people 65 and older, opioid-related emergency room visits were up 74 percent from 2010 to 2015 and opioid-related inpatient stays were up 34 percent. (That compares to a 17 percent decrease in non-opioid related hospital stays and ER visits.) In 2015, there were 124,300 opioid-related hospital admissions of patients 65 and up in the U.S. “So it’s a big problem,” says Dr. Arlene Bierman, director of AHRQ’s Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement, who was involved in the research and is the corresponding author on the report.

Full story at US News