WWW.AGRM.ORG 13 Addiction and Older Adults Death rates highest among those over age 55 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018 While drug-related deaths have increased dramatically in all age groups, the greatest percentage increase has been among adults ages 55 to 64, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. More and more, older Americans are becoming addicted to prescription opioid drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin. It’s not difficult for people of this age to get opioids and other addictive medications. Older adults have an increased chance of experiencing pain and physical illness and are prescribed pain relievers more frequently than younger people. Doctors often prescribe strong opioid medications like OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin to help with chronic and persistent pain, and health care professionals commonly overlook the potential for addiction in older patients. In addition to physical discomforts, those approaching older adulthood experience big life changes such as divorce, an empty nest, retirement, or the loss of a parent or a spouse. These dramatic shifts may cause a person to feel socially isolated, causing them to try addictive substances as a means to self-medicate difficult feelings and emotions. As people age, physiological changes occur, and alcohol and drugs are metabolized at a slower rate. Because of this, older people experience the drugs’ effects more intensely and for a longer period of time than younger people do. Also, older patients are often prescribed multiple pain relievers, which increases the severity of the side effects caused by opioids. All of this leads to an increased risk of developing addiction after a shorter period of time. According to the CDC, 100 people die from drug overdose every day in America. For every opiate-related death there are: Ī 10 treatment admissions. Ī 32 ER visits. Ī 130 people who abuse opiates. Ī 825 nonmedical users. Ī 55 percent who got opiates for free from a friend or relative. Ī 11 percent who bought opiates from a friend or relative. Source: Discovery Place By the Numbers The disturbing statistics of epidemic opiate abuse