As we all know, the aging process takes a certain toll on the body. Knees hurt, joints ache, and overall performance of body systems diminish overtime. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many members of the aging population take prescription medications to keep pain in check.
What is startling, however, is the growing number of seniors found to be abusing prescription medications or using illegal drugs.
Nationwide survey data shows that the number of seniors aged 50 to 59 using illegal drugs in 2010 was twice that of what it was in 2002.
Nearly 2.4 million of the nation’s aged reported that they had partaken in unlawful drug use in 2010. Of those admitting drug abuse that year, more than 410,000 were at or above retirement age.
One factor contributing to the rise could be that aging baby boomers were more apt to be exposed to illegal drug use at a young age because of cultural norms at the time. But the effects of drugs on a young person and an old person are two different things.
Dr. Nora Volkow who serves as director for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), says that an older person’s body has a harder time processing drugs than those that of a younger individual.
While some drug abuse is intentional, some is not. Dr. Volkow says that certain members of the elderly community may be abusing medications unknowingly. This can happen because the side effects of abuse such as sleeplessness and depression are generic and can be misconstrued as other health issues.