Medication misuse is an increasing problem in seniors as Baby Boomers age, according to experts.
Many older patients develop addictions to prescription drugs, says David Oslin, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.
Older patients often misuse drugs because they continue to take them long after the medications stop being effective, Dr. Oslin told The Wall Street Journal.
"Unfortunately, it's much easier to take a pill than to exercise or routinely train health-care workers to properly treat the pain, anxiety, and insomnia often experienced by older adults," he said.
Doctors may not recognize the potential for addiction in their older patients, according to James Huysman, a psychologist and a senior clinical consultant at the Hanley Center, a drug-treatment center in West Palm Beach, Florida. "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," he says.
Doctors may end up prescribing potentially addictive drugs to people with a history of addiction, or who have a high risk for addiction.
When seniors take opioids or anti-anxiety medications for too long, they are at risk of cognitive decline and depression, as well as addiction, the article notes. Older patients who take a variety of drugs for their many medical conditions are at risk for potentially dangerous drug interactions. A dosage that is appropriate for a younger person may be too much for an elderly person.
The University of Pennsylvania has joined with a state pharmacy-assistance program to improve results for older patients prescribed anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants and antipsychotics prescribed by non-psychiatrists. Preliminary results suggest patients in the program show improvement in depression symptoms, and have better overall emotional well-being.