You've probably heard devastating news stories about teens with promising futures dying of drug overdoses. No one likes to hear these stories, yet they're becoming all-too common in society today.
In fact, the misuse of prescription medications can be even more dangerous in the elderly due to physiological and psychological changes that occur with aging that make seniors more vulnerable to overdoses. A slower metabolism and lower body water content, for example, mean higher concentrations of substances in the body, which can lead to an overdose even with lower doses of medication than what typically leads to an overdose.
A recent article in USA Today shed light on what is a problematic practice in the healthcare community with dangerous consequences: Many seniors suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, and other age-related issues, and physicians readily -- perhaps too readily -- prescribe narcotics and anti-anxiety medications to provide symptomatic relief. But when multiple doctors begin prescribing painkillers, and seniors develop a tolerance to their medications, self-medicating with higher doses to achieve the same symptomatic relief is an easy solution to the immediate problem. What many seniors don't realize, however, is that they're creating a dangerous physical and even psychological dependence on prescription drugs.
Faced with the choice between suffering and the possibility of easy relief, most of us would choose the latter. For more information about the rising incidence of prescription drug misuse in older adults, what to look for if you suspect a loved one is misusing prescription medications, and why seniors are sometimes more likely to develop an addiction, read our article, "Prescription Drug and Substance Abuse Among Seniors on the Rise."