Many Older Adults Being Prescribed Narcotic Medications

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Many Older Adults Being Prescribed Narcotic Medications

A study published earlier this year in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology finds that the older population is more sensitive to narcotics and their side effects, but this population is being prescribed more narcotics than ever.

The study was led by researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. It analyzed prescription and health data from 120,000 adults over 66 years of age. All of these adults were diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which makes breathing difficult.

Patients with COPD are often prescribed narcotics to ease the pain caused by this disease. However, due to the respiratory side effects from narcotics, it can sometimes cause more problems than it solves. Other side effects older adults experience with narcotics include fatigue, falls, nausea and confusion.

This population is not prescribed narcotics just for COPD, but for many issues. This study found that between 2003 and 2012, 70 percent of older adults received a new opioid prescription. Narcotic medications are seen as a ‘quick fix’ for these adults since they don’t always have the energy to try other remedies or don’t have someone else advocating on their behalf.

If an older adult is prescribed a necessary narcotic medication, they should be monitored closely for side effects.