“To assess the scope and impact of the prescription drug problem among older Americans, USA TODAY studied data from an array of federal agencies and private firms. Key findings:
- More prescriptions: The medical community is increasingly giving older patients prescriptions for two especially addictive drug classes: opioid pain relievers and benzodiazepines, psychoactive medications such as Xanax and Valium often used for anxiety. According to data collected from IMS Health, which tracks drug dispensing for the government, the 55 million opioid prescriptions written last year for people 65 and over marked a 20% increase over five years — nearly double the growth rate of the senior population. The number of benzodiazepine prescriptions climbed 12% over that period, to 28.4 million.
- More misuse: In 2012, the average number of seniors misusing or dependent on prescription pain relievers in the past year grew to an estimated 336,000, up from 132,000 a decade earlier, according to survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Misuse is defined as using the drugs without a prescription or not as prescribed.
- More damage: Among people 55 and older seeking substance abuse treatment from 2007-11, there was a 46% jump in the share of cases involving prescription narcotics, SAMHSA data show. Annual emergency room visits by people 65 and over for misuse of pharmaceuticals climbed more than 50% during that time, to more than 94,000 a year. And the rate of overdose deaths among people 55 and older, regardless of drug type, nearly tripled from 1999-2010, to 9.4 fatalities per 100,000 people, based on data from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Source: USAToday.com – May 25, 2014