Opioid misuse rising among older adults

Research we're watching

Published: October, 2017

A growing number of older adults are misusing opioids, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that the percentage of adults ages 50 and older using heroin or misusing prescription opioids jumped from 1.1% to 2% between 2002 and 2014. In contrast, opioid use in adults ages 18 to 25 dropped from 11.5% to 8.1% over the same period.

Drug use can bring particular risks to the health and well-being of older adults because they are more likely than younger people to have other illnesses and often take medications that can interact with opioids, according Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. "These findings highlight the need for prevention programs for all ages as well as to establish improved evidence-based treatment, screening, and appropriate referral services," Dr. Kimberly Johnson, director for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said in a written statement.

To help fight this problem, government officials hope to use a multistep approach that includes helping more people enter treatment and recovery programs, providing greater access to drugs that can reverse opioid overdoses, gathering more information about the causes and drivers of the opioid problem, putting more time and money into research on pain and addiction, and promoting safer pain management regimens that don't rely on opioids.

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