Friday, July 13, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 7/13/12:Preventing Substance Abuse Among Seniors

Today I’m again sharing information from www.nihseniorhealth,gov:
Drug abuse, whether prescription or illicit drugs, can have serious consequences, particularly for older adults. That is why prevention is key. However, there are many different reasons why people abuse drugs and become addicted to them. These reasons need to be taken into account when considering how to best prevent drug abuse. Family members, friends, pharmacists, and health care providers can all be involved in preventing drug abuse among older adults.
There are steps that can be taken to prevent abuse of prescription medications and its consequences.
  • When visiting the doctor or pharmacist, bring along all prescription and over-the-counter medicines taken -- or a list of the medicines and their dosages (how much taken and how often). The doctor can make sure that the medicines are right and make changes if necessary.
  • Always follow medication directions carefully.
  • Only use the medication for its prescribed purpose.
  • Do not crush or break pills.
  • If unsure how to take a medicine correctly, ask the doctor or pharmacist. He or she can tell how to take a medication properly and about side effects to watch out for and interactions with other medications.
  • Ask how the medication will affect driving and other daily activities.
  • Do not use other people's prescription medications, and do not share medications.
  • Talk with the doctor before increasing or decreasing the medication dosage.
  • Do not stop taking a medicine without consulting the doctor. Talk to the doctor about side effects or other problems.
  • Learn about the medicine’s possible interactions with alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Answer honestly if a doctor or other health care professional asks about other drug or alcohol use. Without that information, the doctor may not be able to provide the best care. Also, if you have a substance problem, he or she can help find the right treatment to prevent more serious problems from developing, including addiction.
Preventing illicit drug use in older adults requires first knowing what contributes to it. For people of all ages, an individual’s biology (including their genetics) and the environment, as well as how the two act together, determine a person’s vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction -- or can protect against it. For example, being exposed to drugs of abuse in youth, living in a community where drug use is prevalent, having untreated mental disorders, such as depression, or dealing with difficult transition periods such as retirement or loss of a spouse can all make an older adult more vulnerable to drug abuse.
Prevention efforts must focus on gaining a better understanding of the factors that promote illicit drug use in older adults. Prevention also includes finding ways to stop drug use before it worsens and leads to health problems, including addiction. Family members can play an important role by being aware of an older relative’s well-being and possible drug abuse, and stepping in to help at an early stage, if necessary. Doctors should ask their older patients about potential drug abuse and make referrals as needed.

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