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Many of you have probably heard all of the talk on the news about the opioid epidemic, but how many of you associate that problem with seniors? Between 26.4 million and 36 million people worldwide are abusing opioids and this includes heroin, methadone, and prescription analgesics. Almost 100% of Vicodin and 81% of oxycodone are consumed exclusively in the United States. It is estimated that 2.1 million people have an opioid use disorder related to prescription pain relievers. So when you think about what our older adults are being prescribed for pain, it is not shocking our senior population may have a problem.
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be severe. Withdrawal occurs in up to 60% of people who use opioid prescription pain medications. These symptoms include flu-
Per the DSM-
1. Opioids have been taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time that was intended.
2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use.
3. Continued opioid use despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems that are likely caused or exacerbated by the substance.
4. Increased tolerance, leading to a need for a larger dose to achieve the desired effect, and to relieve or avoid the symptoms of withdrawal.
Seniors are also at risk of elder abuse because of opioid prescriptions. Many seniors have opioid prescriptions in their home. In some cases, relatives with an opioid addiction may attempt to steal or ask to have some of the pain medications to satisfy their need. Opioid sales on the black market are also very lucrative and can be enticing for people to take from seniors, in an attempt to make money to feed their own addictions or financial problems.
If you or someone you know is struggling with pain or other health problems, please call Western Illinois Home Health Care at 1-
Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care
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