The use of prescription drugs in America is on the rise. Today, seniors are regularly taking prescription medication to help them with a number of long term and short term issues. These drugs help seniors to live full, active lives while minimizing pain, discomfort or other health issues. While there are numerous benefits to using prescription drugs, there are also some drawbacks. One major drawback is drug abuse and misuse. Alarmingly, the senior population is especially vulnerable to incidental drug abuse.
What is Incidental Drug Abuse?
Incidental drug abuse in seniors happens when they begin taking more than their prescribed dosage of a drug. Instead of aiming to take it as a way to help with their symptoms, they take it for other reasons. A senior may try to increase their dosage on their own. The senior may like the way the drug makes them feel, which causes them to take the medication more often than they should. Either way, the abuse of prescription drugs can be dangerous.
How Does It Start?
Incidental drug abuse usually starts off innocently enough. Many seniors are not aware that they are about to go down a dangerous path. Sometimes the problem is caused by doctors who over prescribe medications and it is not always the senior’s choices that lead to drug abuse and addiction. This causes the senior to simply take more of their prescription because they believe it will help them feel better. After some time, seniors can build a tolerance to the drug, causing them to start taking more because they no longer feel the effects of the regular prescribed dose. As a result, they start relying on this higher dosage and may continue to increase the dosage or take it more often. This situation can easily turn into a chemical addiction, that can turn into the want for stronger more powerful medication to get that “good feeling” back.
How to Spot Incidental Drug Abuse In Seniors
There are many ways to spot senior incidental drug abuse. One of the best ways to spot senior incidental drug abuse is by monitoring the number of pills they have remaining. If a senior asks for a refill before they are due for one, it is likely they are taking more than they are prescribed to take. However, not all symptoms are as obvious. Some of the symptoms of prescription drug abuse include:
Acts of depression
Low to no attention span
Loss of interest and motivation
Lack of balance
These may seem like normal signs of aging, but they can also reveal a deeper issue of drug misuse. Contacting a doctor or healthcare professional is the only way to receive a proper diagnosis.
When to Contact a Doctor
As soon as these signs and symptoms are present, contact a doctor right away. If you feel the doctor is being an enabler in the situation, you should always seek a second opinion to make sure your senior loved one is getting the best care. A doctor can help diagnose the issue as well as provide some alternatives to the prescribed drug the senior is taking. If the senior’s addiction is serious, they can provide contacts and resources to assist with recovery.
Ways to Control Incidental Drug Abuse
While treatment for seniors may be necessary, there are ways to prevent and control access to their prescriptions. Make sure you speak to their doctor, but here are some general tips for managing their medicine:
Use a pill organizer. This ensures all who are distributing pills are giving the correct dosage at the appropriate time.
Keep all prescriptions out of reach of seniors. It is much easier to manage drug abuse when medications are locked away. The correct dosage should always be provided according to the label and instructions.
Make sure all healthcare providers are aware of prescriptions. By communicating with physicians and other health care providers, everyone is informed of all of the medications that the senior has been prescribed. This will prevent paradoxical or dangerous drug reactions from occurring.
Keep track of reactions. Whenever medication is provided to a senior, it should be monitored to ensure it is working properly. If side effects are reported, consult a physician to discuss how it is working and any reactions.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding incidental senior drug abuse, contact their physician. If they think it is in fact incidental drug abuse, one possible option to help aid their rehabilitation is a recovery center. If that’s the route you go, make sure to find a center that has specific experience working with seniors.