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Senior Citizens Effected By Opioid Epidemic

Updated: Oct 18, 2018

It may come as a surprise to know that senior citizens are suffering the effects of the opioid epidemic that is currently sweeping the United States. Government data from 2016 shows that more than half a million recipients of Medicare received high doses of opioids, most of which surpassed the manufacturer’s recommended dose. Between 1993-2012, hospital stays involving opioid overuse grew five times for people over the age of forty-five, which is significantly larger than any other age group.

“I think older patients are more prone to side effects because they metabolize medications much more slowly, putting them more at risk for respiratory distress and cognitive impairment,” cautions Dr. Irene Wu, the Assistant Director at the UCLA Comprehensive Pain Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Wu says there other means by which to control the pain, such as, “For older patients I think that we should introduce them to what we call multimodal pain management, meaning the use of muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, which all have much less side effects than the typical opioids may have.” She also suggests using alternative forms of pain management, such as acupuncture and physical therapy, as a possible substitution or add-on to opioids for controlling physical discomfort.

If you or a loved one have a problem with opioids, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP.

Written by Setareh Vatan