Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse With Seniors

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Approaching prescription drug abuse with a loved one can be difficult, perhaps even more so if they are a senior. Older men and women may be used to their independence and sometimes even resent the suggestion that they could have a problem with addiction. Unfortunately, seniors are at a greater risk for prescription drug abuse, with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reporting that many elderly people tend to take too much medication, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Talking To Seniors About Prescription Drug Abuse

According to the NCADD, about 48 million people in the US have abused prescription drugs, which is roughly 20 percent of the population. SAMHSA reports that almost 30 percent of people between 57 and 85 use at least five prescriptions, and hospital admissions for prescription drug abuse have been steadily rising. These statistics point to a very real problem.

Warning signs

Commonly abused drugs include pain relievers, tranquilizers, and stimulants. There are a few warning signs that you can watch for that may indicate that a senior is struggling with prescription drug abuse.

  • Fear of an inability to function without the drug
  • Preoccupation with taking the medication
  • Straying from their doctor’s prescription instructions; taking the medicine at different times or in different dosages
  • Increased tolerance to medication’s effects

Approaching a loved one

Before you approach a senior about possible prescription drug abuse, it might be a good idea to speak with their doctor. He or she may be able to help you navigate the situation, and may even be able to confirm the problem directly. There are also special concerns to consider with the elderly, because some symptoms of drug abuse are also similar to those of dementia or other mental disorders. Professional guidance can help you understand the process of dealing with a senior and prescription drug abuse.

Next steps

Talking with your grandmother or elderly father about their drug abuse can be a touchy conversation. Be honest, open, and supportive, and remember that it may take time before your loved one is able to admit to an addiction. Avoid blame and accusations as those behaviors can antagonize someone and cause them to shy away from help.

Treatment is a great option for seniors who struggle with prescription drug abuse. There are special facilities that can cater to their demographic, which means they will be surrounded by peers of a similar age. This is especially useful when it comes to group therapy and support meetings, where people share their experiences with each other. Hearing a similar story from someone in your grandmother’s position may make her feel more confident in her ability to recovery.

Recovery is certainly possible for seniors addicted to prescription drugs. It is an ongoing process that requires personalized treatment and support, both from people in and out of the treatment facility. It’s also a good idea for loved ones to attend their own support group meetings, as it can give you a better perspective on how to deal with addiction in the family, and heal together.