The growing population of older adults who are taking many medications prescribed by different doctors, combined with the growing opioid epidemic, is contributing to the increasing problem of drug misuse among the elderly, according to Harry Hanoutunian, MD, Director of the Professional Program at the Betty Ford Center.
Join Together asked Dr. Haroutunian about how children and caregivers of older adults can recognize drug misuse, how they can differentiate it from signs of normal aging, and what they can do about it. Dr. Haroutunian is the author of Not As Prescribed: Recognizing and Facing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Older Adults.
Why is the rate of drug misuse rising among older adults?
Dr. Hanoutunian: An estimated 10,000 people per day are turning 65 in the United States. Many of them visit different providers to treat different problems, so they end up with a combination of pills (called polypharmacy), each with their own side effects. They don’t have anyone monitoring all of the drugs they are taking. They may be taking different drugs from different doctors to treat the same condition.