Is opioid abuse a real issue for seniors? Yes, it absolutely is. Senior citizens have much easier access to pain medication than many other demographics due to the prominence of joint and muscle pain in their bodies. As we age, our bodies wear out. That wear and tear is typically characterized by severe, persistent pain that may require the use of pharmaceutical drugs to relax muscles or to minimize pain so that the patient can live their life as normally as possible. Taking these drugs as recommended is not typically how an addiction to them begins.
When you are prescribed these medications it is absolutely imperative that you pay attention to the doctor’s instructions for their use. Many times they are prescribed with the words “as needed” in the directions for use. This means that you are not required to finish the bottle if you are not having symptoms any more. If you do not use the whole bottle, it is imperative that you get rid of any extra. Do not save them “just in case.” Using these medications when it is not prescribed or no longer necessary can and usually will lead to a drug dependency.
Use all of your medications according to the doctors’ instructions.
If you think that you or a loved one may have an addiction to opioids or another type of medication, please contact your doctor. It can be hard to distinguish this type of drug dependency from other health issues like depression or a sickness like the flu. A lot of the symptoms are the same. If you know that you or your loved one have been taking an opioid or other type of pain medication and you/they are showing any of the following signs or symptoms, it is wise to discuss them with a physician to be sure it is not a drug dependency caused by opioid abuse.
The most common signs and symptoms of opioid abuse include:
- The inability to control opioid use. This is characterized as the feeling that they cannot live without the medication, they truly think they need it in order to feel “normal”
- Uncontrollable cravings
- Changes in sleep habits
- Weight loss
- Frequent flu-like symptoms
- Decreased libido
- Lack of hygiene
- Changes in exercise habits
- Isolation from family or friends
- New financial difficulties
- Shallow or slow breathing rate
- Physical agitation
- Poor decision making
- Abandoning responsibilities
- Mood swings
- Lowered motivation
- Anxiety attacks
The most commonly abused opioid drugs include:
- Hydrocodone and oxycodone
- Hydromorphone and oxymorphone
If you need help and do not know where to go, you can contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.