When most people think about addicts, they usually don’t think of the elderly. But the elderly are just as susceptible, and in some ways more at risk for opioid abuse and addiction.

As many as 17% of adults aged 60 and over abuse prescription drugs. Elderly people are at a higher risk of abusing opioids for several reasons:

1. They typically have more chronic medical conditions and more chronic pain than other age groups.

2. As we age our bodies don’t work as well as they did when we are young. Everything sort of slows down and so medications don’t get filtered through the body as quickly. This can lead to a build up of the amount of medication in an elderly person’s system.

3. Because most doctors don’t suspect the elderly as a population that abuses opioids, it’s often easier for them to get a prescription.

The best way to help your loved one is to stay connected. Know what medicines they’re taking, how much and why. Look for behavioral changes.  Increased anxiety, depression, or secretive behavior could be a red flag. Does your loved one have multiple prescriptions for the same medicine from multiple doctors? Have you found them hiding their medication? These are signs that your loved one could possibly be abusing prescription opioids.

If you have concerns and need help your loved one’s primary care doctor is a great first point of contact. They can help you figure out if there is a problem and refer you to help if needed.