Pain Management in the Elderly and the Dangers of Addiction

Pain Management in the ElderlyIs it possible you may have a preconceived notion of certain stereotypical groups of people? For instance, when you hear the words “drug addict”, what immediately comes to mind? A young adult struggling to make it through daily living without a fix, maybe resorting to a life of crime to fund his or her addiction?

If that’s so, you might be surprised to read that seniors are breaking the mold, unintentionally struggling with serious addiction troubles that can result from pain management in the elderly – namely, to opioids. Prescribed most often for short-term pain relief, opioids can result in addiction if used for a longer term. And yet, the American Geriatric Society updated its guidelines in 2009 to strongly recommend their use in older adults, who, they reasoned, are less likely to become addicted.

Dr. Mel Pohl, of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, however, begs to differ. “There’s no factual, scientific basis for that. The drug takes over in the brain. It doesn’t matter how old the brain is,” he explains.

When being discharged from the hospital, around 15% of patients are receiving an opioid prescription and around half of those people continue to take the opioid medication three months later. The chances of becoming addicted are disturbing. Opioids themselves could certainly leave seniors sluggish, groggy, and depressed, and the effects of stopping the medicine once addicted could be more serious: nausea, perspiring, muscle aches, and more.

So what’s the remedy? Arming yourself with knowledge and inquiring about less risky alternatives to opioids for pain management in the elderly is a great place to start. However, remember the fact that even over-the-counter pain meds are usually hazardous for older people, making it challenging for medical professionals to know how to best manage senior pain – balancing dangers with the need to reduce suffering in older patients.

It is essential for all of us, no matter what age, to become knowledgeable about our conditions and treatment options, and then make well informed decisions in our care – and, to take medications exactly as prescribed, for the length of time they are prescribed.

CareWorks Health Services can assist mature adults in a number of ways to help avoid opioid dependency. We can provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ visits and procedures, pick up prescription medications, and provide medication reminders to make sure seniors are on track with proper medication management. Contact us any time at 949-859-4700 to find out more ways we can help keep your senior loved one safe and well, right at home.