Developing an addiction to a prescription medication with the passage of time is not something unheard of. But, the effects of such an addiction on Americans over the age of 65 can outweigh the impact of any drug dependence widespread among younger adults. Experts say that the likelihood of an elderly succumbing to the adverse effects of non-medical use of prescription drugs is any day higher. People who have crossed the age of 65 years not only suffer from a limited ability to metabolize drugs, but also greater brain sensitivity to the consequences.
In the United States, benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer, is one of the most commonly abused prescription medications. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about 17 million prescriptions for tranquilizers are prescribed for older adults each year. Experts attribute physical, psychological and social factors to the rising levels of vulnerability to prescription drug addiction among elderly people. Research suggests drug abuse may actually mimic symptoms of other medical or mental health problems, such as dementia, diabetes or depression, making it easier for doctors to brush off matters as signs of old age.
Margaret (name changed), 69, battled frequent depressive episodes. The elderly woman from Los Angeles simply couldn’t perform her daily routine activities due to constant breathlessness and fatigue. Moreover, short-term memory loss added to her woes by stopping her from doing all the things, which she loved to do in the past. In a way, things changed considerably for the worse. Besides, the sudden demise of her husband further exacerbated her long-time migraine headaches. Her doctor had to prescribe Demerol and Percocet to treat the excruciating pain and mental agony.
But over time, the pills made Margaret feel even more withdrawn, despite the much-needed initial relief. Soon, she unknowingly developed high levels of tolerance to the pills. The sudden drug cravings and spiraling anxiety levels pushed her to abuse more pills and she ended up going on a doctor-shopping spree. To feed her addiction, she visited multiple doctors in the city for more prescriptions for the pills. She craved for the mind-altering high so that she could keep going on with life.
With her shiny gray tresses, gentle-melodious voice and ever-gracious poise, Margaret never appeared like someone who could be hooked on prescription medicines. There are many such people in the U.S., who are grappling with prescription drug abuse. Thankfully, traditional stereotypes about young or middle-aged individuals addicted to prescriptions drugs are changing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports older Americans, particularly non-Hispanic whites, aged 40 years and above are more likely to use prescription opioids than adults in the age group of 20 to 39 years.
Prescription drug abuse among older Americans is a growing health concern. A wide range of factors, such as worsening health problems or life-impacting events, can wreak emotional havoc in senior Americans, pushing them toward depressant abuse at some point of time as a means to self-medicate their agonies. Depressants are drugs that reduces the activity of the central nervous system (CNS). They can lower one’s heart rate and reduce breathing. Main classes of depressants that are widely abused in the U.S. are:
- Opioids: Opioid painkillers are considered depressants as they work on the CNS. Hydrocodone (Vicodin and Norco), oxycodone (Percocet and OxyContin) and other similar prescription drugs, such as hydromorphone, fentanyl and codeine are routinely abused by elderly users.
- Stimulants: Stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin may sometimes be prescribed to senior patients to treat obesity and narcolepsy, and can be highly addictive if abused.
- Benzodiazepines: Common benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) and clonazepam (Klonopin) can be hazardous, if misused.
Experts say that non-medical use of depressants can lead to full-blown addiction. Above all, with age, the bodies of senior citizens process drugs differently compared to younger individuals as the harmful substances continue to remain in the system for longer periods of time. Abuse of depressants can result in excessive daytime sedation, drug-related delirium, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, including attention deficit, in the elderly.
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction to depressants or any other prescription medication, contact Sovereign Health of San Clemente. You may call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives. Specialists at our world-class depressant addiction treatment centers in California are trained to identify the underlying causes and prescribe customized treatments for addiction to depressants in California as well as group psychotherapy based on a patients’ requirements.