37741961_thbSigns your aging loved one is abusing prescription drugs.


When you think of a person who abuses drugs, the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t of a grandmotherly figure with glasses, knit sweater and grey hair. But with a population of Baby Boomers in the U.S. over the age of 50 growing rapidly; and the fact that people over the age of 50 are prescribed more medications than any other age group, the incidence of prescription abuse among the elderly is an ever-increasing concern.


The number of elderly who have sought help for prescription abuse is growing each year, and since it will continue to rise into the foreseeable future, it is important to remain vigilant in watching for signs of prescription abuse among your aging loved ones.


General Mild Narcotics:


As we age, our bodies tend to suffer more and more from common ailments and are less resilient to them, causing us greater discomfort than they once would have and to seek out the help of a doctor in managing them. Many doctors will freely prescribe mild narcotics such as:


Mild Narcotics (Generally Safe for Minor Use):


Hydrocodone (Vicodin, etc.), Tramadol (Ultracet, Ultram), or Codeine (Tylenol #’s 2,3, codeine w/APAP) for general aches and pains or to deal with the pain from a fall or sprain.


Stronger Narcotics (That May Indicate Advanced Tolerance):


Sometimes, they need for stronger narcotics such as Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Tylox, Roxicet), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid), or Fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq, Sublimaze) is required for treatment after surgery or if the milder pain medicines are no longer working as well as they once were.


Stronger Narcotics (Sleep-Aids Commonly Abused):


Narcotics — along with some mild tranquilizers — such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium) Clonazepam (Klonopin), Phenobarbital (Nembutal) Secobarbital (Seconal) Eszopiclone (Lunesta) or Zopiclone (Ambien) are the most common categories of abused prescription medicines in the elderly.


These medicines are all controlled substances, with the exception of tramadol only being scheduled in some states, and all have a high potential for abuse.


Not everyone who is prescribed these medicines will abuse them, and the vast majority of them do not, however if you are concerned about your older loved ones possibly abusing their prescriptions there are some warning signs, and some actions you can take:



  • Look out for multiple prescriptions from multiple sources. “Doctor shopping”, in which multiple doctors are visited for the same issue in order to gain multiple prescriptions.
  • Check dosages being taken. Taking more of the medicine than has been instructed or taking them at times in which they are not needed.
  • Check Frequency. Requesting an early refill for a medicine that, if taken as suggested, would have lasted longer.
  • Check for Hoarding. Carrying extra of the medicines around with them, “Just in case.” or taking more than the suggested dose.
  • Watch for Defensive actions. Being uncomfortable with the idea of discontinuing the medication.
  • Watch for Tolerance. Going back to the doctor to seek stronger medications than what was originally prescribed.


Signs and Symptoms


Depending on the type of medication you suspect them of abusing there are different signs to look out for in their behavior and physical appearance for evidence of abuse.


Opiate/Opioid Narcotics

  • Constricted pupils.
  • Unavoidably drifting off to sleep at random intervals and difficulty staying awake in otherwise normal situations.
  • Excessive itchiness.
  • A noticeable euphoria in them.
  • Uncoordinated and or incongruent eye movement.
  • Droopy eyelids.


Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates and Prescription Sleep Aids

  • Excessive drowsiness.
  • Pronounced amnesia.
  • Slurred speech.
  • “Drunken”, uncoordinated movements and appearance.
  • Possible Hallucinations.


These are just a few of the signs to look out for if you are suspicious of abuse. Your instincts are usually right, too and if you suspect that one of your older loved ones is abusing their prescription medication, it is important to speak to them about addiction and the dangers of abusing their medications. If in fact they are abusing their medications, or are addicted to them, there is an array of support and options out there for getting them the help they need, including prescription drug abuse rehab, to be healthy and stop the abuse.




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