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How Substance Abuse Can Complicate Existing Medical Conditions in the Elderly

How Substance Abuse Can Complicate Existing Medical Conditions in the Elderly

Addiction is never a good thing. No one who has a problem with substance abuse has a happy, healthy life. Addiction causes health problems, legal problems, problems with work and family, and financial problems. In short, when addiction is present, problems are not far behind. Although this is true for people of all ages, addiction is especially problematic for older people. Addiction complicates existing medical conditions. Unfortunately, most people over the age of 55 years old have a medical condition of some kind. Whether the problem is high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or a heart condition; most people who have reached their golden years will tell you they have experienced some kind of health problem. For those who are 55 and older, addiction complicates these conditions and makes matters even worse. Addiction by itself is a health problem. It is a disease, NOT a choice. Addiction is classified as a disease that affects the mind, body, and spirit. Substance abuse can lead to serious health conditions and premature death. Anyone who has a substance abuse problem is in need of specialized treatment to arrest the cycle of addiction. For elderly adults who already have an existing medical condition, addiction can aggravate their symptoms and lead to even greater problems. In no uncertain terms, substance abuse is very dangerous for elderly adults because the failing body cannot process toxins like it once could.

Old-Age and Chronic Pain – A Prescription for Addiction

People over the age of 55 often experience chronic pain. This kind of nagging and persistent pain may be caused by injuries, arthritis, loss of bone density, falling, or any other number of causes. No matter what the reason, chronic pain can severely negatively impact one’s quality of life. Needless to say, chronic pain is extremely uncomfortable and can lead to depression and a negative outlook on life. Quite often, elderly adults will go to the doctor and complain of chronic pain. The doc’s solution? Narcotic painkillers – specifically, opiates. Although new strict federal guidelines have been implemented to reduce opiate addiction in America, most doctors still prescribe opiates for chronic pain. Opiate addiction is now considered a national health epidemic by medical professionals and addiction experts in America. In recent years, there have been extensive studies implemented to see how prescription medication addiction affects seniors. Would you be surprised to learn that more than 40 percent of all prescriptions written for opiates are written for the elderly? Although this statistic may seem surprising at first, it makes sense, right? Chronic pain results in the pursuit of pain relief. In America, this relief comes in a bottle. For seniors, this can lead to opiate addiction. Typically, older adults are uneducated about the woes of opiate addiction. Their prescription is legally prescribed by a certified medical professional and the bottle has its name on it. This gives the illusion of safety. Many older people who are prescribed opiates are simply unaware of just how dangerous and addictive opiates can be. Most seniors do not equate opiates with drugs. They equate opiates with medication. Because prescription medications do not come with the same stigma as harder drugs like cocaine, meth, or heroin, seniors simply do not make the connection between addiction and legally prescribed medications.

Opiate Addiction Complicates Existing Medical Conditions in the Elderly

Although it is a fact that opiates bring relief for chronic pain, here’s another fast fact: they are highly addictive. The problem with opiates is that they cause a tolerance to develop. This means the person taking opiates will have to use more and more of their medication to experience the same relief they once did with a lesser dose. This leads to addiction. Addiction in the elderly leads to the complication of existing medical conditions. The sad truth is that most doctors do not warn seniors about the potential for opiate addiction. These doctors either assume their patients already know, or they trust their patients to take their medication as prescribed. Furthermore, medical professionals do not explain how opiate addiction can lead to complications of existing conditions. Opiate addiction can complicate heart conditions, osteoporosis, arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other health problems. It can also increase the chance of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and create a number of other serious health problems. Here are some things you should know about how opiate addiction can complicate existing health problems in the elderly:

  • Opiates cause cognitive impairment. For those with dementia, opiates significantly increase the symptoms of dementia and cause extreme confusion and disorientation.
  • Opiates negatively affect memory. For those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this is extremely problematic. If addicted to opiates, those with Alzheimer’s will experience a continued and substantial increase in memory loss.
  • We know that those with dementia or Alzheimer’s have impaired memory. This leads to greater consumption of opiates because seniors with these conditions will forget they have already taken their dose.
  • Opiate addiction can actually cause osteoporosis and lead to the loss of bone density. Those who already have osteoporosis or bone loss will see a rapid deterioration of their condition if they are addicted to opiates.
  • Opiate addiction leads to gastrointestinal problems. Those who already have a gastrointestinal medical condition will only see their stomach and bowel problems get worse with time if they abuse opiates.
  • Opiates are toxins. They affect the kidney, liver, and bladder. Those who have an existing condition of the kidney, liver, or bladder and an addiction to opiates will find that their body simply cannot flush toxins.

The sad reality of life tells us that every human body deteriorates with time. We have no control over that. However; opiates significantly speed up the aging process. That, my friends, we do have control over. If you are over the age of 55 and you are abusing opiates, it is in your best interest to get treatment right away. You want to enjoy the life you have left. If you keep abusing opiates, you are headed for some dark days.

Treatment for Seniors Who Are Experiencing Opiate Addiction

No one plans to become addicted to opiates. It just kind of happens. What starts out as the intention to get some much-needed relief for pain evolves into substance abuse. Statistics suggest that as much as 20 percent of seniors are addicted to opiates. The sad truth is; most seniors do not even know they are addicted. As far as they are concerned, they are simply taking medication to make life better and lessen their pain. Although an older person may be taking more than the dose they are prescribed, most simply do not see a problem. Denial will not allow them to. Denial is a powerful component of opiate addiction. It causes blind spots in the mind that do not allow a person to realize they are taking more pills than planned too. As such, denial gives the mind permission to allow the addiction to continue. If you are over the age of 55 and you believe you have an addiction to opiates, talk to your doctor right away. There is treatment available to help you stabilize your body and detoxify. Many treatment facilities have special programs for seniors. Also, there are opiate alternatives available that will still provide you with relief for chronic pain. Just because you stop taking opiates doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable in your own skin. Help is available.