Opioid Use and Older Adults

Opioid Use and Older Adults

Opioid Use and Older Adults

10 Top Facts:   

  1. Seniors use more medicines — prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) and supplements — than any other age group in the U.S.
  2. Older adults often use multiple medicines, increasing the risk of drug interactions, mix-ups and the potential for harmful side effects.
  3. Your liver and kidneys may not work as well as when you were younger. This decreased function can affect the way a medicine works, is absorbed, broken down and removed from the body.
  4. Medicines may stay in the body longer and cause more severe side effects if doses are not properly adjusted.
  5. Age-related changes to the body such as weight loss, decreased body fluid and increased fatty tissue, can alter the way drugs are distributed and concentrated in the body.
  6. Increased sensitivity to many medicines is more common in older adults.
  7. Impaired memory and hearing and vision loss can make it more difficult to understand and remember medicine instructions, especially for those with complicated treatment regimens. Many older Americans also face declining eyesight, grip strength, mobility and memory lapses — all of which can affect the ability to safely take medication as prescribed.
  8. Older adults tend to receive prescriptions from different healthcare professionals. This fact can make it difficult to track medicines and identify drug interactions, harmful doses, and unnecessary or ineffective medicines.
  9. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cancer, are more common in older adults and often require a more complex medicine management regimen.
  10. Older adults may not follow medication plans because of forgetfulness, bothersome side effects, a perception that the medicine isn’t working, or the cost.

 

However, opioids may be a necessary part of a pain care. When possible, your healthcare team should discuss other possible options that might be right for you or the person you are caring for. Many risks of opioid misuse and abuse can be prevented if you are armed with information about safe medication use and how to get the most from your medications. Ask your doctor about all the pain management and treatment options, including non-opioid and OTC medications.

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