Patient, Family & Staff Safety is our Priority: COVID-19 

Detecting Opioid Addiction in Older Adults

Last Updated on February 19, 2021 by Inspire Malibu

Despite common belief, addiction is a nondiscriminatory disease that can affect anyone, regardless of age, color, race, ethnicity, financial status, or gender. Addiction can take place in a wide range of forms, including prescription medication addiction.

Of the large majority of the United States population suffering from chronic pain, many of those individuals are prescribed medications to relieve their symptoms. Physicians most commonly prescribe opioids for the pain, and benzodiazepines for any feelings of anxiety or inability to sleep caused by the pain itself. In prescribing these medications, physicians expect patients to only consume the instructed dosage, and to stop taking the medications once the pain has subsided.

Unfortunately, many patients with chronic pain are exceeding dosage instructions, and continuing to take the medications longer than prescribed. Who would you say is mostly prescribed opioids? The elderly. According to FamilyDoctor.Org, 13% of the United States population consists of individuals 65 years or older. That same age group makes up 33% of individuals who are prescribed prescription drugs.

Due to a variety of factors, older adults tend to be more susceptible to drug interactions and drug addictions. Since many elderly patients are prescribed multiple medications to consume each day, their chances of mistakenly exceeding recommended dosages become increased. Likewise, the breakdown of the liver over time limits its ability to efficiently and quickly filter medications throughout the body. That means that an elderly patient may experience symptoms of addiction and dependence far sooner than the average adult.

When used appropriately, opioids can be one of the most successful remedies for chronic pain, but due to its ability to ease pain by altering brain receptors, misuse can prove to be consequential.

Detecting signs of prescription drug abuse in elderly patients can be far more difficult than detection for younger adults. It is important that you watch out for these clear signs of prescription drug dependence and addiction:

  • Obtaining the same medication from two different doctors
  • Filling the same prescription at two different pharmacies
  • Exceeding instructed dosage on medication labels
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased talk about medicine
  • Fears of ceasing medication prescription
  • Defensive responses when asked about medications
  • Proclamations of extra pain and the need for extra medicine
  • Hiding medications
  • Keeping a “backup” of medications on deck
  • Similar addictive tendencies in the patient’s history

It is important that you address this problem head on if you notice any of these symptoms in someone you love. Early detection and immediate treatment is the best way to approach addiction in elderly patients. The first step is to discus the problem at hand with the prescribing physician. The second step is seeking a dual diagnosis treatment center that can personalize an individualized treatment plan based on the exclusive needs of the individual.

At Inspire Malibu, we understand the connection between chronic pain relief and opioid addiction. Our opioid addiction treatment programs allow patients to finally free themselves of the addiction and seek a fulfilling lifestyle. In order to best treat this physical disease, we believe in evaluating the patient’s degree of dependence and acting accordingly. We offer one-on-one therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), and dialectical behavioral therapy (DET) to those suffering from opioid addiction. By keeping the unique pressures and pain enforced on the individual in mind, we are able to help patients return to a gratifying livelihood.

Skip to content