AMAC In The Media / Opinion / Politics / Press Releases

It’s Not Just The Kids That Are Hit Hard By America’s Opioid Crisis; Abuse Among Seniors Runs Rampant, says AMAC

opioid-pills-abuseWASHINGTON, DC – The focus of the opioid crisis in the U.S. is on younger victims. But, according to senior advocate Dan Weber “the substance abuse epidemic is having a growing impact on older Americans, the fastest growing segment of the population.”

The president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] says that there is substantial research showing that addiction to alcohol and prescription and illicit among senior citizens has gone unnoticed for too long.

Weber called a report by the Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department published in 2017 a wakeup call.  The report revealed that

“in 2016, one out of every three beneficiaries received a prescription opioid through Medicare Part D. Half a million of them received high amounts of opioids—an average daily MED of 120 mg for at least 3 months of the year. Even more concerning, almost 90,000 beneficiaries are at serious risk of misuse or overdose. These include beneficiaries who received extreme amounts of opioids—more than two and a half times the level that CDC recommends avoiding— for the entire year. They also include beneficiaries who appeared to be doctor shopping (i.e., received high amounts of opioids and had multiple prescribers and pharmacies).”

The AMAC chief called opioid abuse among elderly users “a crisis within a crisis” that needs immediate attention.  “Physicians need to take the lead and begin offering counseling to older patients at risk of addiction.  They also need to offer to prescribe opioid alternatives when treating patients suffering from chronic pain.”

Here’s the way it works.  Chronic pain is widespread among the country’s 50-plus population and one of the easiest and most effective ways of treating pain can involve the use of opioids.  The danger is in the fact that legitimately prescribed opioid pain killers can become addictive and, ultimately, can lead to transitioning to illicit drugs.

And, Weber points out, that the result is that seniors are not only the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, they are also one of the fastest growing populations with diagnosed opioid use disorders.

Pharmacist Kathleen Cameron is also Senior Director of the National Council on Aging.  In a recent article published on the PainAgainstPain Web site she reported that a survey of 200 organizations serving seniors “found that 81% of those organizations agree their clients have little knowledge of safe and affordable alternatives to opioids.  NCOA research also uncovered that while 70% of these organizations have had to increase their efforts to address the opioid epidemic, less than 28% routinely screen vulnerable aging clients for opioid abuse or dependency.  NCOA believes resources need to be invested in educating our aging population and those who serve older adults, in order to reach those at-risk before they become dependent on opioids.”

ABOUT AMAC

The Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] [https://www.amac.us], with 2 million members, is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members.  We act and speak on their behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today.  Live long and make a difference by joining us today at https://amac.us/join-amac.

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Opal Richard
1 year ago

So AMAC also wants to torture the aging population that don’t have a quality of life?!

Karen Alvarez
2 years ago

I find it so sad and frankly maddening to think now they’ll start with the elderly regarding the use of pain medication! I feel for the do gooders who decide other’s fate in raising this question because there will come a day when they to may need medication to have any quality of life! Don’t you think they would like to live medication free and be able to do everyday things and enjoy their families, chores etc in their last year’s of life?? Unfortunately there are many of who by No Choice of their own have to live with pain daily for the rest of their lives!!! Be very careful what is done in the name of addiction!! If you’re 70 + year’s old and can try to have some quality of life wouldn’t you want that for your parents or would you rather see them in pain to make sure they may not be addicted??? My mother is one of those parents! In this day and age I see No reason to see her suffering when she doesn’t have to!!!! She’s 89 years old with dementia and her medication is given her on a routine basis. I am grateful for that and remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do for!!!!!! If they are fortunate enough to live still in their own home I feel the same way!!!! No one knows another’s pain rather physical or emotional!!! Think on that thought for a bit!

Nora
2 years ago

What alternatives are being offered to those who suffer from chronic, debilitating pain? Sciatic nerve pain is incapacitating. Someone, please let us know what else is available for pain relief? To have pain relief and then be able to participate with your family, your Grands……it’s the best of the best time. Sitting at home and suffering, not able to move no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you wish. It is torture to chronic sufferers to withhhold opiods from the ones who are in dire need. Opiods can still be found on the streets for those who are using opoids illegally for recreational use and drug addicts.

Royal DeArvil
2 years ago

Seniors who live with serious Chronic Pain are thrown into the same apple barrel with everyone else. I live with serious chronic nerve pain every minute of every day since a car accident April 12, 2006. It took 6 years to finally come up with a pain med cocktail that worked. The cocktail included a Fentynal Pain Patch. The Pain Patch was taken away from me by government regulations. Then, the limitations on all pain meds became so limiting that we (my pain specialist doctors and personal family physician, and I) have spent the last 10 months working to find a pain med, or combination of pain meds, that will allow me to sleep and to live a semi-normal live for a healthy 72 year old active, happily married male. But, so far I live with severe chronic pain and do the best I can. I am NOT an opiod abuser and I resent being cast into the one “pain med over-user fits all” barrel by our government. I’m an individual, and I fear that our nation has ceased to believe in “rugged individualism”, we are already a Socialist-styled, “the government will take care of me”, nation. We lose more people to car accidents than to opiod overdose, yet anyone over 16 who can pass a very simple driving test can drive. Let’s get serious about finding and stopping the physicians who over-prescribe pain meds, let’s not penalize the chronic pain individual. How many of our Congressmen and our untouchable government bureaucrats who make the rules, live with chronic pain, AND live under the same health care rules the we voters have to live under?

BJ Jenke
2 years ago

The Amac SHOULD STOP SPREADING the MYTH of drug addiction of senior citizens. Opioids are being taken away or being reduced because of those who do not believe that opioids work. Do not look at numbers on a piece of paper to determine that a person is on too high of a dosage. These providers should talk to the patient, exam the patient, and ask if the pain medication is working or not, first. Only people who have the genetic disposition for addiction will become addicts, and that will be known within weeks of being on opioids. Seniors have many diseases which are very painful. Abruptly taking away opiates may cause some go to the street for elicit drugs because of the pain, NOT by drug addiction, (reference the FDA) or commit suicide, Opioids do work, and the pain relief helps people to have a good quality of life for 5, 10, 20 even 30 years without becoming drug addicts. What happened to the pins that medical providers wore in the 1980’s that said, “We Care”. Amac should say, “We care about the people in pain, and we won’t support people who take away their pain medications.”

Tawana
2 years ago

I could not disagree more! Doctors depriving older patients of the pain medications that they actually need is not the answer to opioid abuse! Older patients use pain medications because they have pain. Those medications actually work on that pain and enhance those older patients lives. My doctor took away the pain medication he had previously been prescribing me for my pain. He took it away because he is afraid of the government. His taking away my medication did NOT take away my pain. It has decreased the quality of my life considerably not to have my pain medication, has made me more depressed, more in pain, and much less active. I know many people like myself who are doing without the pain medication that was actually helping them. It’s not right and it doesn’t help stop any opioid crisis because we were not abusing opioids in the first place! Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!

Ken Metcalfe
2 years ago

Unfortunately the rule of unintended consequences applies here as well. Seniors who tolerate and need these drugs are being weaned off them by misguided Doctors and Assistants. They are well meaning and care for their patients, but are following guidelines that are set for everyone, irregardless of their situation. I am 76 and have chronic pain from surgeries, and the life I’ve led (veteran, serious auto accident, logger, aircraft refueler) all physically demanding and debilitating events which have left my body with chronic issues which are best served by pain medication. Now I still have pain with no relief. What about us….NOT EVEN WORTH A MENTION

carol kisilewicz
2 years ago

I know several elderly that are no longer to enjoy life or even take care of themself or leave their house..due to the pain they are in, and cannot get relief , Pain management centers do not treat them with any respect, their pain is NOT MANGED, it is handled like they are junkies,,,, urine testing , long waits, threats of being removed and no longer able to get meds if they come up one pill short ect……. this is not fair to the elderly…….they need help with all the pain , someone to really look at them and see how they can be helped to live and be get some relief… , Look into how these elderly can be helped instead of punished because of the pain they cannot control………..HELP!!!

JOSEPH
2 years ago

I really hate how reactionary we as a nation have become. For more than 12-15 years I have, through the VA, had available to me an ongoing prescription for 5/325 Hydrocodone/Tylenol for severe foot, leg and knee pain if on my feet for long periods. Aspirin and aspirin based products eat into my stomach and Tramadol gives me a severe headache and has other bad side affects and Tylenol on its own does nothing; that leaves opioids. I was allowed two a day if needed based on a 60 tab monthly prescription which generally would last me 3-4 months as I only took them when really needed. Online prescriptions renewals were stacked up and available several months in advance usually expired unused and when needed I would be forced to call my Dr. for a renewal. I never abused, sold or otherwise misused them for those many years. Suddenly due to misuse by others I am now completely cut off from the only pain killer that gave me any relief. You could almost set your watch by them; about 20 minutes after taken the pain would seem to wash away. Now mind you I am almost 81 years old, what are they worried about, I should suddenly become addicted or overdose; at my age I have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel at least I should be able to enjoy what’s left of my life pain free. I recently had a full knee replacement and you what the VA sent me home with, liver killing Tylenol! ^%$%#&^*

Nona Smith
2 years ago

I no of many seniors who Dr. shop to get more opioids. Mostly for back pain. When I tell them about Ginger and how goodit works for pain they think I am nuts..

Cheryl Bray
2 years ago

I’m sorry some people get addicted, that is between them and their doctor, but for those of us legitimately needing pain management medication it is getting harder and harder. Stop emphasizing the negative and think of the positive sometimes. PLEASE.

Debbie
2 years ago

My name is Debbie and I totally disagree with the CDC and DEA. I have been suffering for 12 years now with RSD/CRPS which causes 24/7 pain in my left foot. RSD left my foot demineralized, on 13th Fx due to misdiagnosis and am on the bare minimum, also 64! How can you force a patient to live with pain which then affects every aspect of my life especially walking! Your all crazy, the REAL EPIDEMIC IS HEROIN WITH FENTYNAL COMING FROM MEXICO AND CHINA AND NEW YOFK!!! What you need to do is round up your drug dealers here and close down the borders with more efficiency to capture the drugs!!!!!!!!
Angrily,
Deb Del

James
2 years ago

I’m 62 and have been talking opioids since 2004. I’m a maintenance tech. in a manufacturing plant and have doing this kind of work for 42 years. I have chronic pain in my joints. My ankle and shoulder have no cartledge and is bone on bone. I’ve tried all kinds of pain relief and opioids are the best. I would not be able to work with out them. I should be able to retire if only I could get descent amount of money from social security, but that is a whole other can of worms

Clark Kent
2 years ago
Reply to  James

I am 61 and my right need does not bend. Lots of sad stories as one ages. And your point is?

Karen Ziebro
2 years ago

Due to the “opioid crisis” some of us, in particular seniors, can not get any pain medicine when we do have extreme pain. I have recurring shingles, and for the last two episodes, I was not allowed to have ANY pain medicine whatsoever! (Yes, I’ve had all the shingle shots.) That’s not fair to me and others. Some of us have pain, and we are being punished for others who abuse pain meds.

Irv C
2 years ago

The assault on opioids is outrageous! I have suffered sciatica for over 50 years and all the so called non Opiod pain killers do nothing except destroy my liver and kidneys. If an adult is in pain it’s evident to a good doctor. Quit pulling the rug out from under our medical professionals and allow them to treat those in pain. I feel if someone is going to abuse ANY drug they will find it. Just like outlawing guns gives only outlaws guns well sonit is with drugs. This government is far too involved in our personal lives. It won’t stop until we’re all just gobots for uncle Progressive.

Patricia Gutierrez
2 years ago

The problem with the article is that some seniors (I was struck, and ended under a bus … and was practically immobile in intensive care for 5 weeks, and then 3 months of nursing home with PT). I was given percocet 2 pills
every 4 hours as needed during this time. I esp. needed it in order to have the PT (even though couldn’t walk could
do some PT) during this time. As soon as I was able to walk (all four limbs were broken, plus pelvic, sacrum, ribs …)
I was able to leave the percocet “cold turkey.” … with no withdrawal symptoms at all. The doctor told me I wouldn’t become addicted because it was given for pain. He was right. There are some times when one has to have something this strong. I was a senior when this happened. (I haven’t had to use this again … have worried more
about using Advil — only use when really am in pain — now from arthritis from all the plates and screws throughout
my body.)

Debra
2 years ago

I get so tired of hearing the same garbage about opioids. The opioid epidemic originally started with doctors who were told by the Gov. to write as many scripts as they deemed necessary. , because actually there was a plan with certain individuals in gov. who wanted addictions to start with people, then when opioids would become restricted, people would be forced to the streets to buy free flowing heroin and fentanyl which were coming over our borders.
Yes, there are people who have abused prescription meds. Just like they abuse alcohol or anything else. BUT!!!!!! Not everyone on an opioid for pain is addicted to them or abuses them. Most of the law makers here have totally tipped the pendulum the other way and now penalizing those that deal with chronic pain as they are somehow criminal and they must be put on some alternative. It is easy for those to talk of an alternative when you have not lived with chronic pain where you want to gnaw your flipping tongue off. Alot of those suffering take opioids to allow there bodies to just function. They are not getting high, nor are they thinking about overdose. What restricting people from these drugs does is cause extreme panic and thoughts of suicide to get out from under the dang pain. I know those who have been put on Pain Management. A Guinea pig as they try other things on those with pain with no results. I have watched people get worse and suffer unbelievable amounts of heartache and more pain added onto of what they already had. A doctor can prescribe an opioid and monitor the patient. There are now safety precautions set up on line for doctors to monitor patient scripts and how much they get. I wish for each person wanting to pass a law or make it harder for a senior to get their pain meds to have a good taste of pain that would only be satisfied with an opioid and then have their doctor say, My hands are tied because of the new laws. Here, take this prescription NSAID. ( a strong Aleve) which does absolutely nothing for bone pain., or cancer pain, or degenerative back and hip pain.
Please do alot of research on your own, instead of just displaying the NORM research every other news source is displaying. You need to live with those who suffer before you report on it.
It is appalling to hear that these drugs cause dependancy!!!! The PAIN is what pushes people to an answer. I know people who in no way are hooked on the drug. They depend on the drug to HELP TAKE AWAY THE PAIN. . Not to get high.

Clark Kent
2 years ago
Reply to  Debra

Debra: Lots of blarney presented by you. How about some FACTS to back up your crapola?

Robin Boyd
2 years ago

As a senior citizen who must continue to do physical labor to afford to live, stronger pain medication is the only way I can get through most days of work. Even though I am on Medicare, my insurance does not cover the dosage of pain medication my doctors feel are appropriate for me. Because of the way government is handling the opioid situation by going after prescription pain relievers, I now must pay out of pocket for pain relief so I can work to afford to pay out of pocket for pain relief. I support the president in most things he is doing, but this one is being done wrong.

Susan Smythe
2 years ago

I agree that putting all opioid users under one umbrella is ridiculous. Seniors have more pain. Dah. I have MS and whole spine scoliosis—let even one of the brainless statistics persons try dealing with that everyday and see how long they last without something to, at the very least, make the pain tolerable. I’m 67 and have been on opioids for years. I too, as other commenters, am not addicted. I take the same amount at the the same time each day and I for one thank God that I can get that little bit of relief in order to function and live my life. It’s called pain management—not opioid abuse.

Deb Del
2 years ago
Reply to  Susan Smythe

You are absolutely dead on, it’s pain management so that I may walk and also visit with my 10 beautiful grandchildren!!

Gloria Rognlie
2 years ago

I am 79 years old and recently suffered serious back problems. After a hospital stay of two days and two and a half weeks in rehab, another in home rehab, the only relief I had was medication (not opioids) which only lasted a short time and the pain was back but according to the pain instructions it was to soon to take more. I have found the solution. I am working with a doctor who has relieved most of my pain and neuropathy without drugs. I am still taking treatments. The problem is that MEDICARE will not pay for the treatments, which by the way DO NOT REQUIRE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION. The solution!! Medicare would provide a BETTER and Cheaper solution, and seniors would not become addictive,
SOMEONE NEEDS TO DO SOME RESEARCH ON MY SUGGESTION.

Timothy Hacker DDS FAAID
2 years ago
Reply to  Gloria Rognlie

This is the approach we need to take in our mis-guided drug addicted culture, Gloria. I applaud you for finding this solution. The tragedy is, as you pointed out, Medicare supports the drug culture, not the homeopathic solutions. In my surgery practice we are teaching people how to stay ahead of post operative pain without opioids. It absolutely works, but it takes paying attention to the whole protocol, not just the convenient parts. Thank you sharing.

Clark Kent
2 years ago

‘Homeopathic’ = quack in the opinion of my old man, a retired physician (not a dentist). Nice try; no cigar.

Clark Kent
2 years ago
Reply to  Gloria Rognlie

Better have a good book to read while waiting for the government to do ANYTHING positive in the healthcare field. Ever hear of the VA healthcare system?

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