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Older adults report misuse of painkillers more than any other type of prescription drug. Over 40 percent of older adults have chronic pain that is often treated with opioids, sometimes for long periods of time. Though the health effects of long-term opioid use needs to be studied further, opioid use among older adults may increase risk for falls, delirium, fractures, pneumonia, and all-cause mortality. The sheer magnitude of opioid use among older adults— coupled with the dangerous nature of this class of drugs—increases risk for abuse, addiction, and overdose.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS OF OPIOID USE?
Prescription opioids carry serious risks of addiction and overdose, especially with prolonged use. An opioid overdose, often marked by slowed breathing, can cause sudden death. The use of prescription opioids can have a number of side effects as well, even when taken as directed.
Before taking opioid medication for your chronic pain:
• Discuss pain treatment options, including ones that do not involve prescription drugs
• Tell your doctor about past or current drug and alcohol use.
• Discuss all of the risks and benefits of taking prescription opioids.
Prescription opioids are narcotic pain medications that are prescribed for people with moderate to severe pain.
OPIOIDS CAN HAVE SERIOUS RISKS INCLUDING ADDICTION AND DEATH FROM OVERDOSE
MANAGING RISK AND PRESCIPTIONS
Older adults use more prescription drugs than do any other age group. Eighty percent of older adults ages 65 and older live with multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Older adults also have higher rates of pain, anxiety and sleep disorders. 65 percent of Americans ages 65 and older reported using three or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days.
The amount of opioid use among older adults and the dangers of these drugs puts older adults at greater risk for abuse, addiction and overdose.
There are important steps older adults can take to reduce the risks associated with prescription opioids.
If you have multiple medications, try to set a timer or reminder to ensure that you are taking medications at the right time, and in the correct dosages.
Taking multiple medications can also lead to potentially dangerous drug interactions. Make sure you talk with your doctor about appropriate dosages and record them.
Avoid mixing prescriptions and alcohol. The combination of alcohol and medications can bring about particularly adverse reactions among older adults, as their bodies detoxify and eliminate medications and alcohol more slowly.
To learn more about how to prevent Rx drug abuse and addiction, visit cortlandareactc.org/Rx.