Fears Rise of Medication Misuse by the Elderly

Prescription-drug abuse and misuse by seniors doesn’t get much attention. But with the senior population steadily growing, it’s getting harder to ignore. Many seniors develop addictions to prescription drugs. Others are taking medication that is having little effect or unintentional effects, either because they are taking it for too long, they were prescribed too big a dose, or it is reacting badly with other medications. The misuse of medications “is a rising problem in seniors as the baby-boom generation ages,” said David Oslin, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Exactly how much of a problem is unclear, because there isn’t much data available. But it’s enough of a concern that experts in addictions and geriatric care are trying to raise awareness of the issue. For starters: “The use and availability of highly addictive medications continues to rise, with very little recognition of the problem,” said Dr. Oslin. It isn’t just that doctors sometimes don’t recognize addiction in their patients. Physicians also sometimes fail to recognize the potential for addiction, says James Huysman, a psychologist and a senior clinical consultant at the Hanley Center, a drug treatment center in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Physicians who work in a fee-for-service system and are traditionally paid by procedure are pressed for time, and too often write prescriptions in the interest of time management without knowing the necessary behavioral health background of a patient,” said Dr. Huysman. That may lead to potentially addictive drugs being prescribed for people who have a history of addiction or who have a high risk for addiction.

Source/more: Wall Street Journal

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