The prescription drug epidemic is a national health problem and studies show it's a rapidly growing challenge for our elderly population too. Prescription drug abuse occurs when a person takes medication that wasn't prescribed for them or they simply use the medication in a way that wasn't recommended by their physician. On many occasions, the patient may take more medication than required or mix it with alcohol or other medications which can lead to major problems.
According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, prescription drug abuse among adults 60 and older is one of the fastest growing health problems in the United States. With our fast paced society, expedited physician office visits and limited data, these challenges often times get overlooked by our health care providers.
In an article published by FamilyDoctor.org, Americans who are 65 and older represent 13% of the population, but consume one third of the prescriptions. Senior citizens happen to take more medications than any other age group, so they will automatically be at a higher risk for mistakes and drug interactions. Also, with their elevated risks of sleep disorders, pain and anxiety they are more susceptible to improper use. It is hard to know if our elders are abusing medications, and it takes additional effort by family or caregivers to monitor behaviors.
Pay close attention to determine if seniors are:
- Getting the same prescription from different doctors
- Filling prescription at 2 different pharmacies
- Taking more of prescription than normal
- Always thinking about medications or afraid to leave without it
- Becoming uncomfortable or defensive when asked about medicine
- Storing extra medications in purse or pocket or hiding it somewhere
- Recipient of past drug treatment
There is no question after looking at the data that prescription drug challenges are on the rise and finding solutions are complicated. Just last week, AmSA collaborated with pharmacists, physicians, law enforcement, public health and other professionals at a conference in Alabama to combat prescription drug abuse. It takes a team effort, and with the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama Public Health and others forging state wide partnerships, the coalition is trying to confront prescription drug abuse and do something jointly about it.
Our elder population is so very vulnerable and if you suspect abuse, it is prudent to seek wise counsel. The first person to seek advice from is the physician prescribing the medicine. The doctor will be able to determine if there's abuse of the medication and will be able to assist with a possible treatment plan.