The Opioid Epidemic: It's Not Just About Young People

iStock

When you think of a dangerous drug overdose, whose face comes to mind? Probably not your elderly relative’s. But according to a new study published in Innovation in Aging, a journal of the Gerontological Society of America, the number of ER visits involving opioid poisoning or dependence more than tripled in Americans over 65 between 2006 and 2014.

Researchers at Towson University in Maryland found that misuse of opioids is also associated with an increased risk for chronic health problems, injuries, and higher rates of alcohol dependence and mental health issues in seniors.

This research involved ER visits by people 65 and older from 953 hospitals in 34 states and the District of Columbia. The increase in these visits from 2006 to 2014 was 217 percent.

As we continue to struggle under the weight of the opioid crisis, the researchers say, it’s crucial to develop targeted programs for screening, intervention, and treatment geared toward seniors who misuse opioids and other substances.