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Older Adults and the Opioid Epidemic

While news of the nation’s opioid epidemic has focused largely on young people buying and selling drugs on the street, the effects of opioid addiction on the senior American population has gone virtually unnoticed. Over the years, physicians have increasingly prescribed pain medication to seniors to address chronic problems such as arthritis, cancer, and other diseases that tend to arise later in life. For instance, a recent study showed that in 2011, 15% of seniors received a prescription for pain medication following a hospital stay; three months later, however, 42% of these seniors were still taking the pain medication. Since one in three people who have been prescribed opioids for two months become addicted to or physically dependent on the drugs, it is no wonder that seniors increasingly have become addicted to prescription painkillers.

The difficulty is that seniors tend to have chronic pain as they age, and opioid treatment, at least for the short-term, can be very effective. Other options for treating the pain are not as effective, and may have unwanted side effects, such as the bleeding that can occur from aspirin and ibuprofen. Due to the opioid dependence that has resulted in many cases, physicians are beginning to prescribe the smallest dose of opioids possible, combined with non-traditional treatments such as acupuncture. Nonetheless, the incidence of hospitalization due to opioid usage among seniors over the last 20 years has quintupled, but rehabilitation rates remain low, probably due to the stigma against rehab for the older generation, and the fact that most rehab facilities are not equipped to deal with the multiple medical conditions that many seniors in this situation face.

At Boller & Vaughan, we are nursing home neglect lawyers who pride ourselves on representing the rights of those countless individuals who suffer injuries and even death due to the wrongful behavior or neglect of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care homes. The devastation of losing a loved one can be overwhelming and traumatic. Allow us to handle the legal aspects of your situation, while you and your family focus on the healing process. Call our office today to set up your free consultation.