Many seniors get confused and end up drug addicted

by Ned Wicker
(Wisconsin)

There they were; all the bottles of pills in “Sharon’s” kitchen. There was medication for any number of medical conditions and each had a different dosage and a different frequency of use.

She had one of those daily pill dispensers, but keeping everything straight was a chore, mainly because she was taking medication at various times of the day, so the possibility of mixing up pills and the times to take them was beyond possible and teetering on probable. Still she does the best she can.

Among senior citizens, alcohol remains as the most abused drug, but for many the trouble lies in the large number of medications that they may need and getting confused on the dosage and frequency.

People live longer, and so the population ages. Sharon is not a drinker and never has been, but little did she realize that prescription medications would be come an issue. She had hip replacement surgery and started to develop a dependence on the pain medication prescribed by her doctor. She was lucky. She knew something was going on and sought her physician’s advice.

Times have changed. There are on-line pharmacies and the easy-access to drugs, even opiates, are a problem because seniors who want immediate satisfaction can, in effect, cut their physician out of the loop. Seniors become their own doctor. The doctor may prescribe a specific drug, in specific amounts, to be taken for a specific period of time to treat pain, or another condition.

If a third party severs her doctor/patient relationship, the possibilities for serious abuse are staggering. On top of that, seniors who may have trouble remembering what they took and when, and innocently go beyond a prescribed amount, are in jeopardy at best of developing a dependence, or at worst taking a potentially fatal amount of the drug.

Sharon is aware of her limitations, but many seniors aren’t. Just as an alcoholic may be in denial about his/her drinking, seniors may push off any growing dependency on a drug out of denial, or the mere shame of the idea of being “hooked.”

I remember a scene from the comedy “What’s Up Doc” when Barbara Streisand’s character is in court. Her father is the judge. He lays out all these pills on his bench and laments to the bailiff, “I take the red pill to remind me to take the blue pill. Do you see this pill? I don’t know what it’s for and that scares me.”

Keeping track of medications and having control measures in place is important for seniors, who will become greater in number and in needs as the years roll on. Just because somebody is older and wiser does not mean they are exempt.

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