Caring Currents

Prescription Addiction: Are Your Parents at Risk?

Last updated: Jul 10, 2008

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Most seniors today take a dizzying number of prescription medications. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), although seniors represent just 13 percent of the U.S. population, they consume one-third of the prescription drugs.

In most cases, prescription medications improve the lives of elderly people by doing everything from lowering blood pressure to easing chronic pain. But the explosion in drug use by seniors has a potential dark side: drug dependence and addiction.

According to NIDA director Nora Volkow, prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing public health problem for people of all ages. To date, NIDA and other government agencies have focused most of their attention on prescription drug abuse by young people, but Volkow points out that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to this problem because they take far more medications than any other age group. Older people are also at high risk for drug interactions and for negative side effects because of the changes in metabolism that accompany aging. Many seniors use alcohol in combination with prescription drugs -- a potentially lethal combination.

Over the next few weeks, Caring.com will explore the issue of seniors and prescription drug abuse and addiction. We'll give you the tools to determine if this is a problem for the elders in your life, and if so, what you can do about it. So stay tuned, and if you have experience or information regarding this issue, we want to hear from you!

 

 

Image by Flickr user bitzi, used under the Creative Commons licensing agreement