4 seniors: Opioid epidemic affecting older patients

OKLAHOMA CITY – The opioid epidemic stretches across the country, but it is also a problem for older adults.

Over the past two decades, opioids have become a commonly prescribed medication for arthritis, cancer, neurological diseases and other illnesses.

In fact, nearly a third of all Medicare patients were prescribed opioid painkillers in 2015. That same year, 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 abused the drugs.

If your parent or loved one may be addicted to opioids if they can’t stop taking the drug, even if it is causing problems with their family. If you think your loved one is addicted, ask them to see a doctor. You can find a specialist through the American Society of Addiction Medicine or the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry. 

Treatments are different for every person, but the main goal is to help them stop using the drug in the future.

Their doctor can prescribe certain medicines to help relieve withdrawal symptoms like methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

After detox, behavioral treatments such as individual counseling and cognitive therapy can help them learn to manage depression, avoid the drug, deal with cravings and heal damaged relationships.

For help, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration help line at 800-662-4357.

If your loved one’s doctor prescribes opioids in excess or without legitimate reason, report them to your state medical board.