Will senior living need to address an impending Baby Boomer drug abuse problem?
My friend and retired Drug Court Judge Peggy Hora has been warning me for years that assisted living is going to have to cope with a whole new set of problems related to drug abuse among Baby Boomers. She recently forwarded me a fairly shocking USA TODAY article. The newspaper states that misuse of prescription pain relievers by those over age 50 grew nearly 40% from 2002 to 2012 — from 132,000 to 336,000. Misuse was defined as using the drug differently than prescribed or without a prescription. The publication scoured data from private firms and federal agencies and found the drug misuse data cited above in a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It also cites a 2012 brief by SAMHSA and the Administration on Aging (AoA) that noted “about one in every four adults 50 and over use psychoactive medications — mostly opioids for pain and benzodiazepines for anxiety . . . and because older bodies metabolize drugs less quickly, those medications tend to build up in their bodies.” Among the consequences of drug misuse by seniors, USA TODAY said was “rising overdose death, a spike in emergency room visits, [and] increasing admission to addiction treatment programs.” The article stated, “The toll on the senior community is enormous. “Older brains and bodies are prone to drug complications, from falls and respiratory failure to cognitive problems and dementia. Yet studies project the number of seniors misusing pharmaceuticals will continue to grow, fueled by aging Baby Boomers and the medicate-first approach many doctors take in treating them.” Caregiving staff in assisted living communities may face the challenge of working with residents’ physicians to determine who needs prescription painkillers and how long they should remain on them. Has resident misuse of drugs and alcohol already become a problem for you? Are you seeing more of it? Read the USA TODAY article at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/20/seniors-addiction-prescription-drugs-painkillers/9277489/