The opioid epidemic in teens and young adults has gained national coverage, but these issues go beyond those demographics, reaching the senior citizen community as well.
Wink News states that, “an analysis of government data shows more than 500,000 Medicare recipients received high doses of opioids in 2016, with the average dose exceeding the manufacturer’s recommended amount.”
In the article, they describe how a 71-year-old retired corporate tax attorney was prescribed oxycodone after undergoing surgery. While the surgery was a success, the pain began to grow unbearable. With increased pain, the patient learned that pain receptors were no longer able to help the way opioids provided and he became stuck in a loop. It eventually took over his life, until he checked himself into rehab.
“I couldn’t have a social life. I couldn’t play go out with my friends. I couldn’t go to restaurants. I couldn’t go to parties, we couldn’t have parties at our home,” said the patient to Wink News.
Just like this patient’s story, many other senior citizens experience this after surgery as well. Assistant Director UCLA Comprehensive Pain Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Irene Wu says that our bodies can become very dependent and tolerate these medications quickly and discusses senior citizens using opioids.
“I think older patients are more prone to side effects because they metabolize medications much more slowly,” said Dr. Wu. “For older patients, I think that we should introduce them to what we call multimodal pain management, meaning the use of muscle relaxants, anti inflammatories, which all have much less side effects than the typical opioids may have.”
Another treatment option seniors can look into are acupuncture and physical therapy and these serve as alternatives for pain management.
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