Cullman Senior Magazine Summer 2019 - Page 48

percent of Medicare Part D benefic aries were pre- scribed opioids in 2016, showing that they are not exempt from the high level of opioids prescribed in the United States overall.” “Those that have misused an opioid prescrip- tion(s) causing hospitalization has increased five-fold over the last two decades” according to an online article by Aging in Place. Misuse or abuse – often unintentional – of opioids can be partic- ularly problematic for older adults due to serious side effects. Physical side effects of opioid use include; nausea, constipation, urinary issues, itch- ing (pruritus), respiratory depression, increased pain sensitivity (opioid-induced hyperalgesia), muscle spasms/jerking (myoclonus), fall risks and diminished bone density. All or some of the side effects can be experienced by the user. The Nation- al Council on Aging states that “the risk of falling while taking an opiate is increased by 4 to 5 times more than by those who are taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).” As if all of these physical side effects of opiate use in the elderly weren’t bad enough, there can be negative mental consequence as well. Cognitive impairment- it warns the user right on the bottle, take extra care while participating in certain activities and one should not be driving or operating heavy equipment while under the influ- ence of opiates. But when it comes to the elderly, both short term and long term use can result in “defic ts in executive functions, attention, concen- 48 | SUMMER 2019 tration, recall, visuospatial skills and psychomotor speed”, this according to an article in Medscape. Dementia - research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says that individ- uals who use opioids have slightly higher dementia risks than those who don’t use this type of drug. Depression – Some studies have connected opioid misuse with increased levels of depression – this issue can be even more critical for the elderly. Even pharmacies and pharmacists are concerned about this growing epidemic. For instance, U.S. Pharmacist warns that “Healthcare professionals should be cautious when prescribing and dispens- ing opioid medications to patients aged 65 years and older. Because of their age, elderly patients may have reduced renal function even in the ab- sence of renal disease, thereby leading to a reduc- tion in medication clearance.” According to an article, Is Your Loved One in Need of Help?, published on the Addiction Cen- ter website; “there are several things that could contribute to someone turning to substance abuse later in life. These could be health-related or life-changing events that take an emotional toll. These events may provoke drug-abusing behavior that can result in a full-scale addiction. Potential Triggers for Addiction in the Elderly • Retirement • Death of a family member, spouse, close friend, or even a pet • Loss of income or financial strain • Relocation or placement in a nursing home • Trouble sleeping • Family conflict • Mental or physical health decline (depression, memory loss, major surgery, etc.) Identifying addiction in the elderly can be chal- lenging. “The abuse may mimic symptoms of other physical or mental conditions, such as diabetes, dementia or depression” states The Addiction Center website. So, most doctors may feel as if the declining mental or physical health can be related to disorders already diagnosed with or with aging itself. CULLMAN COUNTY SENIOR MAGAZINE