Use of narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medications among elderly patients is rising sharply, according to an examination of Medicare data by USA Today. The newspaper found older patients are using the medications for longer periods than in the past.
The newspaper estimates that one in five of the nation’s 43 million senior citizens receive Medicare prescriptions for opioid painkillers, many of them for long periods.
The number of patients 65 and older who received Medicare prescriptions for opioids increased more than 30 percent between 2007 and 2012, the newspaper found. An estimated 8.5 million elderly patients received opioid prescriptions in 2012. Use of some of the most commonly abused opioids, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, increased more than 50 percent. The amount of each opioid given to patients increased an average of 15 percent, to about three months worth of medication.