For Caregivers – Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse in Seniors
The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention reports that 17% of seniors abuse prescription drugs, alcohol, or both. Senior abuse of prescription drugs can lead to serious consequences:
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Coordination difficulties, leading to slips, trips and falls
- Mixing non-prescribed and prescribed drugs can lead to unwanted and dangerous drug interactions
- It’s harder for older people to stop taking a drug once they start
How can you help? By keeping an eye out for prescription drug use and misuse. This can be tricky, as symptoms can mirror those of aging:
- Memory loss
- Lack of balance/coordination; falls
- Unexplained bruising
- Shaky hands
- Mood swings
- Chronic boredom
Women take more medications and thus are at higher risk for misuse. Talk to your patient’s other caregivers, family members and friends to monitor behavior and mood changes.
At all ages and stages of life, proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs helps prevent abuse. When drugs are kept in a safe place, they’re less likely to be stolen and abused; when unused drugs are properly disposed of, there’s no temptation to take ‘just one’ to deal with a physical or emotional problem.
For more information:
Talking to Your Patients About Prescription Drug Abuse, a free download with information for all ages.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Elderly from the State of New York
The Elderly and Substance Abuse and Misuse from California (not everything is applicable to New Hampshire, but the document is still loaded with good information).