Helping Seniors Avoid Trouble with Opioid Prescriptions

Posted on :  December 3rd, 2015  |  By :  towardsrecovery

When we think of opioid addiction, we should no longer think of just heroin. The addiction to pain medication that contains opioids has reached epidemic levels. In the last 20 years, more than four times as many people have become addicted to opioids that were prescribed by physicians. Sadly, senior citizens are having a significant issue with opioid addiction.

The biggest problem with opioid medication is the fact that it is relatively easy to get more than one prescription for the painkillers. Doctors and pharmacies do not talk to each other, so they do not know if a patient is getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors and different pharmacies. Governments are trying to create laws that would give doctors and pharmacies what they need to know if patients are working the system. Laws would end patients’ ability to “pharmacy hop” or “doctor shop.”

The other problem with prescription medications is the cost. In some cases, the drugs cost more than the care provided by the physicians who prescribe them. As elderly patients rely on government systems for their drug expenses and living expenses, future generations could be greatly affected by the cost of medications. As people are living longer, due to medications and healthier lifestyles, the cost of health care will only grow and fall on the shoulders of future generations.

The addiction to pain medication could be managed by reducing the amount of money that seniors (and other patients) can spend on them in the first place. There are other ways to manage pain that do not result in addictions. In reality, countries could lose billions of dollars simply through filling prescriptions for patients who have any form of pain. It is vital that governments and medical agencies learn how to reduce these costs. Creating affordable treatment programs is a step in the right direction.

In the United States, Medicare is the program that funds prescriptions for seniors. It is important that this system alerts physicians and pharmacies if a patient has more than one prescription for expensive medications. Medicaid does this and there are other private insurance carriers in the United States that do this, too.

Health care policies need to identify people who have a history of abusing pain medication. Instead of continuing to feed their addictions, they would be directed to a treatment program. Seniors would be allowed to find a provider, but the health insurance company would have to approve the provider. The health insurance company would monitor the prescriptions and how often they are filled. The companies would set limits on refills and doctors would be alerted if patients are attempting to go elsewhere for the fix. The problem in the United States with enacting procedures like this is with the privacy laws about health care. In no way can the alerts and monitoring system reveal private information about patients.

  • It is important that senior citizens be protected from abusing medications, especially opioids. In many cases, seniors might not even be aware that they are taking a drug that is easy to abuse. They simply follow the instructions of the health care provider they trust and their brain chemistry does the rest. To protect them these ideas need to be enacted:
    • Seniors would receive approval for their preferred physicians and pharmacies, unless those places have histories with helping patients get the opioids they need.
    • The health care beneficiaries would be alerted to any changes that their loved ones made, especially when those seniors are taking opioid medications.
    • Seniors are monitored based on their history of prescription medications to see if they are at-risk for abusing prescriptions like Vicodin or oxycontin.
    • Patients who are in hospice would be exempt.
    • Government needs to create data sharing programs, especially for patients with issues with pain.

If you have any questions about treatment options, please contact us at Towards Recovery Clinics.

Who We Serve ?

  • Individuals using/abusing street narcotics (e.g. heroin).
  • Patients abusing prescription narcotics(i.e., Codeine, Talwin, Percocet/Percodan, Dilaudid, Morphine or Demerol, et cetera).
  • Individuals displaying any of the following behaviours: Compulsive drug use or drug seeking/craving.