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Prescription Drug Abuse and the Aging Parent

May 1, 2020

At an age where the use of prescription drugs is common for treatment of any number of chronic conditions, an elderly parent’s misuse of medicine might go unnoticed by family at first. Even if you’re aware of what specific meds they’re taking, you could be missing the warning signs they have begun abusing a prescription drug. Today let’s look at how that abuse might be affecting their health and well-being and what clues might already exist about any potential prescription drug abuse.

While it’s common for an elderly parent to take prescription pills for short-term or long-term purposes, it’s helpful to be aware of significant changes in your loved one’s appearance or behavior that might indicate an abuse of medications is happening. Some warning signs include a frequent refilling of prescriptions, becoming secretive about their prescriptions, and changes in coordination or vision which may lead to falls or other accidents. If you suspect an older family member needs treatment for prescription drug abuse, make it a priority to address it with them and reach out to addiction specialists or a family physician for support and guidance. 

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

A Senior’s Misuse of Prescription Drugs for Chronic Conditions

Let’s look at some ways the abuse of prescription drugs occurs in seniors.

  • The senior may take their prescription drugs while alone and increase the dosage without consulting their doctor.
  • The senior may take a prescription drug with a higher rate of dependence, such as a benzodiazepine, over a long period of time.
  • The senior may accept a prescription drug belonging to another family member or friend and combine its usage with their own prescriptions.

A Senior’s Misuse of Mental Health Prescriptions

Prescriptions for mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, can also be part of the abuse by an elderly parent. The abuse could coincide with one or more of the following:

  • Loss of independence or move to a retirement community
  • Loss of a loved one, close friend or family member
  • Increase in frequency or duration of periods of isolation
  • Increase in concerns over physical health

Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse by Seniors

Clues about a senior’s potential prescription drug abuse can come in many forms, including changes in their appearance and behavior.

  • Refilling prescriptions more often, claiming pill bottles got misplaced
  • Becoming secretive or avoiding conversation about their prescriptions
  • Changes in coordination or vision, leading to falls and other accidents
  • Often appearing unusually sedated

Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders in Seniors

An elderly parent with an existing mental health disorder (or an undiagnosed one) and an emerging dependence on prescription drugs may benefit from a program offering a dual diagnosis treatment. This kind of integrated approach to recovery can address both prescription drug abuse and the underlying mental health issues that may have contributed to the misuse of medication or been created as a result of the growing dependence on meds. For some seniors, including ones with military service, one of those underlying co-occurring conditions could be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by traumatic events from years or decades ago.

What to Say to an Older Parent Abusing Prescription Drugs

Your loved one’s health and well-being depends on their ability to begin recovery quickly to minimize the harm abusing prescription drugs is causing. Although the situation may seem complicated by your parent-child relationship, remaining focused on showing support in helping them take the necessary steps to end the prescription drug abuse can be beneficial. If you feel you need support before beginning a conversation with your loved one about potential treatment options, addiction specialists or a family physician can be your first resource.

Age-Specific Treatment for Seniors

A senior in need of recovery from prescription drugs abuse is very different than a young adult who starts treatment for an addiction. As lifestyles and life experiences differ across generations, treatment that’s designed specifically for an older adult can provide patients with specialists who are experienced in late-onset addiction along with a community of their peers. By entering a program with relevance to the patient’s age and stage in life, your family member can experience a treatment aligned with their needs and abilities.

Hanley Center – A Path to Recovery

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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