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What Is The Prevalence Of Senior Citizen Opioid Addiction?
Sometimes referred to as the golden years, the period of one’s life that begins around age 65 and is usually marked by retirement can be a time of significant enjoyment but also significant upheaval for many. Unfortunately, the growing problem of senior citizen Opioid addiction means that more and more of the elderly population aren’t living out the twilight of their lives in the way one might expect.
The statistics on this issue can be quite sobering. For instance, one study found that Opioid-related emergency room visits increased threefold in the 65+ age range from 2006 to 2014. Additionally, according to a 2018 Psychiatric Times report, more than a third of individuals over 50 who struggle with ongoing pain admit to misusing their prescription Opioids.
Senior citizen Opioid addiction is on the rise, and so are deaths and suicides related to the disease. As the age of the population begins to increase, so too does the urgency of this issue. Fortunately, there are ways to identify and treat Opioid addiction in the elderly even in spite of the unique challenges to recovery.
What Are The Signs Of Senior Citizen Opioid Addiction?
Signs of Opioid misuse, dependency, and withdrawal in the older population may include:
- Mood swings.
- Memory loss.
- Frequent falls and injuries.
- Running out of prescription before refill is due.
- Poor grooming or bathing.
- Weight gain or loss.
- “Doctor shopping.”
- Withdrawing from friends and family.
It’s worth noting that there could be many factors resulting in the above symptoms, especially in the elderly. A combination of these indicators, however, may point to an Opioid Use Disorder; at the very least, a conversation with a loved one could be justified if enough symptoms are present.
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What Are The Challenges Of Treating Senior Citizen Opioid Addiction?
Several barriers exist for the treatment of senior citizen Opioid addiction. These obstacles can be overcome, but first it’s important to know what they are. These roadblocks may include:
- Ageism. Family members, friends, and practitioners may be under the erroneous belief that only younger people struggle with substance abuse. By contrast, senior citizens may be viewed as angelic or placid – and the needs of those struggling with senior citizen Opioid addiction may be dismissed. This is ageism, plain and simple; all members of the population are susceptible to Opioid misuse and should be treated accordingly.
- Symptom overlap. Many of the symptoms of Opioid abuse, like a foggy memory, tiredness, or social isolation, could also be typical symptoms of age-related cognitive decline. Therefore senior citizen Opioid addiction could be mistaken as just simple aging, blocking an elderly individual from getting the care that is indicated.
- Lack of medical alternatives. Many senior citizens may begin to abuse Opioids after being given prescription painkillers. The trouble is that, for those who struggle with chronic pain, few alternatives may be available. Ibuprofen, for example, is contraindicated for those with certain heart conditions and kidney abnormalities.
- Denial. Someone afflicted by senior citizen Opioid addiction may be too proud or too ashamed to fully acknowledge the state that they’re in. The fact that the Opioid medication of abuse is often prescribed by a doctor could complicate this matter, as the individual in question can simply claim that they are taking their medicine as instructed.
- Lack of specific providers. A comparatively small number of providers offer geriatric-specific care. Senior citizen Opioid addiction can present with many additional problems and complications that a non-specialized treatment provider may not be able to address.
Clearly potential pitfalls for the treatment of senior citizen Opioid addiction abound. The good news is that so do treatment options, a few of which are detailed below.
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How Is Senior Citizen Opioid Addiction Treated?
Some possible treatments for senior citizen Opioid addiction may include:
- Medication. Medicines like Naltrexone, Buprenorphine, and Methadone may be administered to help the patient recover from Opioid addiction. These medications can reduce cravings and soften the symptoms of Opioid withdrawal. For senior citizens, for whom physical symptoms of Opioid withdrawal can be especially unpleasant, these drugs can be particularly useful.
- Therapy. Senior citizen Opioid addiction often does not occur in a vacuum. In other words, the individual in recovery may be dealing with a host of lifestyle factors that are encouraging use. For the elderly this can often involve a changing role in society, the deaths of close friends or loved ones, and a coming to grips with one’s own mortality. A therapist may be able to help an elderly patient process their concerns on these issues, which could address some of the underlying reasons for substance use and lead to a happier and healthier patient.
- Dual diagnosis treatment. Many mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, may be overlooked in senior citizens for the same reasons as Opioid addiction. But any treatment that does not consider these disorders, as well as other potential complications like dementia, is incomplete. Rehabs that provide dual diagnosis treatment are best suited to help an elderly patient with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues.
With a combination of medication, therapy, and a full consideration of other mental and emotional issues, senior citizen Opioid addiction can be effectively treated.
Getting Help For An Opioid Addiction
If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one who may be struggling with Opioid addiction, please don’t hesitate to contact a treatment provider. You can learn more about treatment options available and about rehabs nearby. Countless senior citizens have recovered from the scourge of addiction – by exploring all treatment options, you or your loved one can get better too.
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