While the opioid epidemic in younger Florida residents continues, there is another side to the crisis that is growing. It is also underreported. Florida seniors are just as susceptible to developing an addiction as younger people. With a legal prescription to manage chronic pain, addiction and overdose are more common for seniors than you might think. With Florida drug rehab, you can reclaim your life.

Addiction in Seniors May Go Undiagnosed

Prescription medications are certainly not uncommon for pain management in seniors. After surgery, such as hip or knee replacement, managing the pain while in recovery can help the patient endure the physical therapy needed to get back on his or her feet. Powerful opioids are also used for chronic pain management. In those cases, it is not easy to spot the signs of addiction.

Severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other painful conditions are often treated with opioids, whether administered through a patch, pill, or vial. Dr. Joseph Garbely, Caron Treatment Centers medical director, tells U.S. News and World Report  that “caregivers often miss the signs.”

For that matter, doctors do not always pick up on the symptoms of substance abuse. Garbely says they do not often ask the right questions.

Symptoms May be Mild, at Least at First

According to Garbely, the changes that take place as a senior becomes addicted might only be evident to an observant caregiver or family member.

Some of the signs include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion and coordination problems
  • Sleep disturbances or sleeping too much
  • Sweating
  • Mood swings

Confusion can easily lead to overdose, especially in a person who is not in a care facility or under the care of someone at home. Screenings for substance abuse tendencies can help identify who is more at risk. However, opioids can turn someone who has never abused any drug into an addict, especially when prescribed for chronic pain.

Following Doctors’ Orders Might Get You Into Addiction Trouble

Seniors are not likely to question a daily regimen of opioid drugs when they are prescribed by a doctor to manage a diagnosed condition. Becoming addicted can take the patient and anyone who cares for him or her by surprise. That happened once before in 1800s America, and it happened recently to a retired tax attorney, John Evard, says NPR.

Evard tells NPR that it was “a big surprise” when it happened to him. He had no history of substance abuse or addiction before realizing that he had a problem with opioids. Surgery left him with chronic pain, and chronic pain left him with a prescription for Oxycontin.

As happens with many addicted people, Evard says the drug gradually became less and less effective. Doctors prescribed higher doses until he eventually became depressed, confused, and addicted without pain relief in exchange.

Seniors with Addiction Are No Myth

The American Geriatric Society (AGS) updated its guidelines in 2009 to favor opioids for moderate to severe pain. At the time, the group said evidence supported their belief that seniors were not as susceptible to addiction as younger people. Unfortunately, other experts in the field say there is “no factual basis” for that opinion, according to NPR. The 2009 guidelines are now retired.

Balance is needed between pain relief and over-prescribing opioids. The AGS now promotes alternative methods for managing chronic pain combined with the “smallest effective opioid dose possible.”

Opioid-related hospitalizations in seniors have skyrocketed, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.  According to NPR, they have quadrupled.

Addiction happens in the brain. There is no age limit. Just because a senior citizen probably will not commit a crime to obtain opioids or switch to heroin does not mean he or she is not susceptible to addiction.

Florida drug rehab can help you or someone you care about to eliminate opioids for good. Beginning with medically assisted detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and continuing through a wide range of helpful therapies, you can make today the beginning of a life free from dependence. Contact us to learn more about admissions and the programs available.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.