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Opioids in the ElderlyIs it possible you may have a preconceived notion of certain stereotypical groups of people? As an example, what ideas immediately come to mind when you hear “drug addict”? A young adult helpless to make it through everyday life without a fix, maybe turning to a life of crime to finance his or her dependency?

If so, you may be surprised to learn that seniors are breaking the mold, unintentionally experiencing serious addiction troubles – specifically, to opioids. Often prescribed for short-term pain relief, longer term use of the drugs can result in addiction. And yet, the American Geriatric Society updated its guidelines in 2009 to strongly recommend opioids in the elderly, who, they reasoned, are less likely to become addicted.

Dr. Mel Pohl, of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, however, begs to differ. “There’s no factual, scientific basis for that. The drug takes over in the brain. It doesn’t matter how old the brain is,” he explains.

With as many as 15% of patients receiving an opioid prescription upon discharge from the hospital, and nearly half still taking that medication three months later, the chances of becoming addicted are alarming. Opioids themselves can leave seniors fatigued, groggy, and depressed, and the effects of stopping the medication once addicted may be even worse: nausea, perspiring, muscle aches, and more.

So what’s the solution? Supplying yourself with knowledge and asking about safer alternatives to opioids for your older loved ones is an excellent place to start. But remember the fact that even over-the-counter pain meds could be hazardous for aging adults, making it difficult for physicians to know the best way to control senior pain – balancing dangers with the need to remove suffering in elderly patients.

It really is essential for everyone, regardless of age, to become informed about our own conditions and treatment options, and make well informed decisions in our care – and, to take prescription drugs exactly as prescribed, for the timeframe they are prescribed.

Regency Home Care, an Atlanta home care company, can help aging adults in various ways to help avoid opioid addiction. We can provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ appointments and procedures, pick up prescriptions, and provide medication reminders to make sure older adults are on track with proper medication management. Contact us any time to discover more ways we can help keep your senior loved one safe and well, right at home.