At a recent staff meeting, we had a presentation “Opiates in the Aging Population.”
This was very eye opening for many of us and we learned quite a bit. It is hard for many people to think of a senior having addiction issues, but the truth is addiction can happen at any age.
Many times when we talk about prescription medication abuse and seniors we are warning seniors to safely get rid of old medication and to keep their medicine locked up and away from those who would take their medication. Now an emerging or really an ongoing problem is the abuse of prescription medication by seniors.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, 2.7 million Americans over age 50 abused painkillers. This means they took the medicine for reasons not prescribed or more than the prescribed amount. In the past two decades, the hospitalization rate due to opioid abuse has quintupled for those 65 and older. These numbers are growing.
Medicare has put some measures in place to help reduce opioid abuse. Some of those measures include safety checks at the pharmacy before your prescription is filled, these protections are especially important if you see multiple doctors. Medicare and prescription drug plans can review prescriptions to make sure the medications are safe and the amount prescribed meets prescribing guidelines, new opioid prescriptions can be limited to a 7-day supply and they can review if you have other medicines, such as benzodiazepines, that could interact negatively with your pain medicine. These checks alone will not end the opioid crisis but hopefully they can help prevent new addictions to these medicines.
Medicare can also help with treatment for addiction. Medicare Part A can cover inpatient care for a substance abuse issue if the care is at a Medicare approved facility and has been determined to be reasonable and necessary. Medicare Part A can cover medication needed for inpatient treatment also. Outpatient treatment can be covered under Medicare Part B depending on who is providing the services, not all facilities or providers are covered by Medicare. Medicare Prescription plans may cover some of the medicines used for treatment but it does not cover all of them for treatment purposes. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is working at changes to address the opioid issue, but they are playing catch up to an ever-widening problem.
Signs that someone may be abusing an opiate include:
• Noticeable elation/euphoria
• Marked sedation/drowsiness
• Constricted pupils
• Slowed breathing
• Intermittent nodding off or loss of consciousness
• Slurred speech
• Lowered Motivation
• Extra medication bottles
• Mood changes
• Sudden financial problems
We have to remember that opioid and drug addiction is not a “them” problem, it is an “us” problem. It can affect someone at any economic level, any race or religious background, any education level and any age. If you believe you have a problem or someone you love has a problem with addiction, please do not hesitate to ask questions or seek help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline is 1-800-662-4357, help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.