The Hidden Drug Epidemic Among Older People

People in their 60s take an average of 15 pharmaceuticals a year. Coordinated with over-the-counter products, they seem to do more harm than good.

Photo by Tristan Le on

While news reports pay attention to an outburst of opioid abuse among young people, another legal and hidden drug epidemic is happening with the other end of the age spectrum: the fistfuls of remedies — both prescription and over-the-counter — taken by senior citizens.

As stated by the American Association of Consultant Pharmacists, people aged 65 to 69 need an average of 15 prescriptions per year, and such aged 80 to 84 take 18 medicines. And that’s and the myriad over-the-counter drugs, herbal solutions, vitamins and minerals they may take, any of which — alone and a combination — may cause more problems than they cure.

Among people over 65, 44 percent of men and 57 percent of girls take five or even more nonprescription and pharmaceuticals a week, and 12 percent take ten or more.

A large number of supposed remedies are unnecessary or used and might contribute to distressing and not to mention dangerous uncomfortable side effects. For example, taking aspirin or maybe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen could increase the danger of bleeding in patients on any prescribed anticoagulant like coumadin.

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The problem of polypharmacy, just like plenty of drugs is known as, and having the unwanted side effects they cause is because of  fragmented medical treatment system, rushed doctor visits, and direct promotion of drugs to patients who are ill-equipped to make rational decisions about what taking, what you should not to take, and once.

This means it has often been as much as patients and caregivers to ensure that minimum risk accompanies whatever medications or remedies may be prescribed or taken on their very own. No matter if older patients are discharged from the hospital to the skilled nursing facility, one study found they have been prescribing 14 medications, one-third of which had side effects that could worsen underlying conditions common among the list of elderly.

The complexity related to the use of multiple medications ends in patients failing to follow medical instructions or do not take recommended drugs.

The elderly are liable to polypharmacy plus a too-frequent consequence referred to as a “prescribing cascade” — by which still further medications are prescribed to treat drug-related adverse effects mistaken for a new medical condition.

One typical example will be the utilization of anti-Parkinson therapy for symptoms caused by antipsychotic drugs, considering the anti-Parkinson drugs, causing new symptoms as a steep drop in arterial pressure or delirium resulting in just another prescription.

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Even doctors who will be well-informed can have difficulty determining the most beneficial or safest medications to prescribe for their elderly clients because most of the studies done to increase marketing approval exclude older people or those with an unrelated chronic health problem.

Thus, prescribing doctors mightnot know if the drug they order is safe for patients with kidney or liver impairment who may require a lower-than-usual dose or perhaps a different medication. A reliable drug that’s not prescribed just might be worse than no drug for patients.

Medical judgment will often be needed to enhance safety. To foster compliance with prescribed remedies and minimize the likelihood of adverse effects for older patients who require multiple medications, doctors may choose to “underprescribe” and prioritize treatments of severe conditions already diagnosed over preventive therapies for conditions by using a less immediate effect on patients’ standard of living.

Some drugs prescribed years earlier may not be necessary, which can be discontinued. The patient, for example, may now have a quick life span that renders pointless a preventive medication taken away to lower cholesterol or increase bone density. However, it is essential to taper many drugs to stay clear of dangerous symptoms caused by an abrupt withdrawal.

Affordability is yet another consideration. Despite the insurance plan for prescription drugs, many more new, more efficient medications involve co-payments that strain the budgets of the elderly. Patients may plan to skip doses or cut pills in two to make them go further, also in accomplishing the aim to render them less effective or ineffective.

Author Resource Box:

The Hidden Drug Epidemic Among Older People – The New York ….

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