Substance abuse trends in the elderly

Close up of a person holding some pills in their hand and another offeing a glass of water.

The stress, uncertainty and physical discomfort of aging can take its toll on the elderly. Likewise, caretakers may feel suffocating pressure to relieve pain, even if it means resorting to questionable means.

These factors are among those contributing to the troubling increase in substance abuse among seniors. 

A pressing issue

Recent studies have shown increased opioid overdoses among persons aged 65 across Canada. While we often see substance abuse as an issue primarily affecting younger populations, reports indicate that the rate of hospitalization for overdose is actually higher in older people compared to younger ones.

Several factors are likely contributing to this pressing issue.

First, addiction treatment may not seem like a high priority for seniors. For instance, they may have other acute or life-threatening conditions. And again, people often associate substance abuse with younger folks.

Additionally, seniors can be at risk of opioid abuse simply because their caretakers are unaware of the situation.

Due to the slowing bodily systems accompanying aging, even a small number of opioids can have a fatal impact. Interference with other prescription medications can also cause impairment and put a person’s well-being at risk.

A careful approach

A careful approach is vital when it comes to a senior’s care and the distribution and consumption of medications. Often, these vulnerable parties are also experiencing physical and mental health issues, and discontinuing care or abruptly changing medication can make these conditions worse.

Caretakers should follow a strict timeline for giving opioids. They should also consult physicians to ensure an opioid is safe to take with other medications. 

People who have suspicions about the medical care of an elderly family member should immediately speak up. If someone is misusing or improperly administering medication to a vulnerable senior, the toll can be devastating. 

If you are a caretaker or concerned family member, understanding the risks of substance abuse and how you can protect your loved one is critical. Personal, medical and legal interventions can help preserve their well-being and legacy.

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