Under-reporting of Geriatric Substance Abuse

As Americans are living longer, many doctors, assisted living facilities, and convalescent hospitals are discovering a problem with substance abuse among their elderly patients. The wonders of modern science have made longer lives possible and, in many ways, more comfortable and less painful. Modern medications help alleviate the aches and pains often associated with getting older, and help control and even reverse some diseases that are common in old age.

However, too often, medications that are designed to be used long-term are never re-evaluated in conjunction with newly emerging problems. For instance, a patient may be taking medication for arthritis when they are diagnosed with heart disease. When they are given a prescription to address the hear disease, they may not think to mention the arthritis medication, and the doctor may forget to ask about other medications, before giving the new prescription- especially if the new condition is totally unrelated to the original one. And to further complicate things, many medications interact with other medications badly, producing even more problems or side effects which require additional medications. Yikes! We trust our doctors to know when enough medication is too much, but often there are multiple doctors working with the same patient- cardiologists, geriatric doctors, respiratory therapists, etc… so they may be unaware of medications prescribed by another specialist.

All of these details can result in geriatric substance abuse. Sometimes the patient is truly innocent of abusing substances as they are simply following their doctors’ orders without realizing that they are taking dangerous combinations of substances. Other times, patients know full well that they are taking multiple drugs for the same condition or even mixing prescriptions on purpose for the high or the sedation that the medications provide.

One way to prevent geriatric substance abuse is through drug screening. Some facilities do screen residents regularly, but most do not. Families and caregivers can do the screening themselves at home, though, and if they suspect that something is amiss with the results take them to the patient’s primary doctor for follow up. Screening can be done using urine, saliva, or blood analysis, and home tests provide easy to read, accurate results, as long as the instructions are carefully followed.

If you are worried about the medications that a loved one is taking, or suspect that there may be dangerous or unexpected consequences as the result of taking certain medications, consider conducting an in-home drug screen test. You can find more information on our website: www.americanscreeningcorp.com



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