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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Seniors Prescribed Prescription Narcotics On The Rise

New Medicare data indicates that the use of narcotic opioids and anti-anxiety medications among elderly patients is on the rise, according to a report on the data by USA Today. The prescription drug epidemic in America has impacted the elderly on a scale that is epic in proportions, the report estimates that one in five of the nation’s 43 million senior citizens on Medicare have prescriptions for opioid painkillers. Just last month, the newspaper reported that in 2013 alone there were 55 million opioid prescriptions written for people 65 and older.

Between 2007 and 2012, seniors who received Medicare prescriptions for opioid painkillers increased more than 30 percent, according to the report. In 2012, there was an estimated 8.5 million seniors that received an opioid, in one form or another. The report showed that prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone rose by 50 percent. What’s more, the amount of each drug prescribed increased by an average of 15 percent. Not only are seniors being prescribed opioids more often, they are taking the drugs for much longer periods of time.

The prescription drug problem amongst the elderly does not stop with opioid medications. Over the same time period, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication (benzodiazepines) rose about 25 percent, to more than 700,000 in 2012. On average, elderly patients received prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication for five month periods, about 10 percent increase in time.

The rise in prescribing practices to seniors "is something we really need to be concerned about," says Michael Von Korff, an investigator for the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. “Misuse and abuse of these medicines is not uncommon among the elderly. They do get into trouble with these drugs.”

Von Korff said that elderly patients who take opioids or anti-anxiety medications are at increased risk of injuries from falls, cognitive problems and impaired breathing.

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