Senior Citizens and the Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic is a serious health crisis for our country, and senior citizens are not immune to what’s happening. Every day, more than 90 Americans die of an opioid overdose. This includes overdoses on illegal heroin as well as the abuse of prescription pain relievers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, fentanyl and others.

A recent analysis from Stanford University found that seniors covered by Medicare have “among the highest and most rapidly growing prevalence of opioid use disorder.” The report found that more than six out of every 1,000 Medicare patients are diagnosed with an opioid disorder, compared to one of every 1,000 patients covered by commercial insurance plans.

Unfortunately, abuse of opioids isn’t the only way seniors are contributing to the crisis. Many have become what is known as an “accidental drug dealer.” These are seniors whose prescribed medication is stolen or periodically taken from their homes. Sadly, many times this is done by friends and family members who have access to their medicine cabinets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 percent of people who abuse opioids get them from a friend or relative.

So what can you do about it?

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, getting immediate professional help is crucial to not falling victim to further abuse or even to an overdose. Treatment options that are available include:

In order to safeguard any prescription pain reliever you use from theft, we advise you to follow these rules:

  • Store your medications in a secure location like a home lock box.
  • Count your pills regularly so you’ll know if a pill is missing.
  • Never share your medications with anyone.
  • Dispose of unused medications.

There are many drop off locations around the country to securely get rid of unused or expired medications. Visit the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Controlled Substance Public Disposal locator to find the one nearest you.