USA Today: Seniors’ Prescription Drug Use Staggering

The rate of seniors obtaining prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medications has surged in recent years and it may continue as more older adults are being put on these types of drugs for longer stretches of time, according to a USA Today examination of federal data.

From 2007-2012, the number of patients aged 65 and older obtaining Medicare prescriptions for opioid pain medications rose more than 30% to more than approximately 8.5 million beneficiaries, USA Today found. 

Particular painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, saw usage among this age population grew by more than 50% during this time period. Meanwhile, the supply of each narcotic provided to the average patient climbed 15% to about three months.

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“The figures suggest that one in five of the nation’s 43 million seniors get Medicare prescriptions to take pills like Vicodin or Percocet for their aches and pains, often on a long-term basis,” writes USA Today.

On the anti-anxiety medication side, the number of seniors receiving Medicare prescriptions for these types of drugs rose about 25% to more than 700,000 between 2007-2012.

Though narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medications may be helpful for seniors on a short-term basis, increased usage can lead to a number of health issues such as physical dependence and can put them at an increased risk for falls, according to one investigator for the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle in the article.

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Read more at USA Today.

Written by Jason Oliva