| Tue, Nov 24, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Think Older Adults Don’t Abuse Prescription Drugs? Think Again.

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

drug abuseIn order for prescription drugs to work properly, they need to be taken correctly. The right dose has to be taken at the right time on the right day. Depending on the drug, it may need to be taken with food or on an empty stomach. If a person takes their medication incorrectly, it could spell trouble, especially for older adults. That’s because as a person gets older, it’s harder for the body to break down the drug, causing it to stay in the body longer than it would in a younger person. Depending on the type of drug, it may even put an older person at higher risk for falls and other injuries.

Just being older makes a person more vulnerable to prescription drug mistakes. Think about what could happen if an older adult took their medications the wrong way on purpose.  Powerful, commonly abused prescription drugs like opioids (painkillers), depressants and stimulants could be especially dangerous.

Older adults are like everyone else. Just because they are older doesn’t make them immune from drug abuse and addiction problems.

The Signs of Drug Abuse

Some common warning signs of drug abuse may include sleep problems, anxiety or depression. However, they may also be signs of many other health conditions. According to National Institutes of Health, Senior Health (NIH), additional signs of drug abuse may include1:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Losing interest in favorite hobbies and interests
  • Being under- or over-energetic
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent requests for refills of certain medicines
  • “Doctor shopping” (moving from provider to provider in an effort to get several prescriptions for the same medication)
  • False or forged prescriptions

Would you know if your loved one was abusing prescription or illegal drugs? Take this quiz to find out.

If you suspect you or your loved one may have a prescription or illegal drug problem, talk to a doctor during your Medicare Wellness Visit, a substance abuse counselor, or another health care professional. Medicare Part B covers certain outpatient mental health services for treatment of inappropriate alcohol and drug use. Medicare only covers these visits, often called counseling or therapy, when they’re provided by a health care provider who accepts assignment. Some Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) or Medicare supplement plans may cover in-patient substance abuse treatment programs. Check with your plan for coverage details.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Senior Substance Abuse: The New Age of Addiction: Medicare Made Clear

Prescription and Illicit Drug Abuse, Recognizing Substance Abuse, NIH Senior Health

Medicare & You: Get the official U.S. government Medicare handbook.


1 Prescription and Illicit Drug Abuse, Recognizing Substance Abuse, NIH Senior Health, July 2014


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