Prescription medication addiction increasing among senior citizens


POSTED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 6:13am

UPDATED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 11:30am

More senior citizens are becoming addicted to prescription medications, according to the Administration on Aging (AoA).

One in four adults over the age of 50 are taking a psychoactive drug, either a narcotic painkiller or anxiety drug like Xanax.  The age group is among those most vulnerable to medication misuse and abuse because they use more prescription and over-the-counter medications than other age groups. 

Guillermo Villanueva with Aliviane Recovery Center in El Paso said the trend is also happening in El Paso. 

"It's very difficult for you and I to think that our grandma, grandpa may be a substance abuser," he said.

Between 2007 and 2011, there was a 46-percent jump among that population seeking substance abuse treatment.  With the opiate epidemic, those numbers are projected to increase.

According to the AoA, misuse of prescription medications is estimated to increase from 911,000 in 2001 to 2.7 million in the year 2020, a 100-percent increase among older adults.

Villanueva said there are a few other reasons why senior citizens are more vulnerable.

"They have access to healthcare through their retirement or through Medicare or Medicaid," he said, and added that another reason is because seniors see doctors regularly and get prescriptions.

The AoA said older women are at a higher risk because they are more likely to use psychoactive medications to treat anxiety and depression related to divorce, widowhood, low income and poorer health.

However, older adults in general are at risk.  Prescription drug misuse and abuse can be especially dangerous for older adults because it can lead to confusion, impaired vision, attention and coordination, which can result in falls and hip fractures.

The AoA lists some signs to look out for:

  • Memory problems
  • Decline in hygiene, personal grooming
  • Problems in marriage or with family
  • Withdrawal from family, friends
  • Avoid social activities

Prevention and early intervention is key.

For more information and resources, go to or

To receive treatment from Aliviane in El Paso, contact them at 915-782-4000.

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