When many people imagine people who abuse prescription drugs, they think of younger adults who get hooked on painkillers after a sports injury or even teenagers pilfering pills from their grandparents’ medicine cabinets. No one wants to believe that their older family member is abusing prescription medications, but it does happen, and perhaps more often than you might believe. As a family caregiver, you probably spend more time with your aging relative than anyone else does. Would you know if they are using their prescription drugs inappropriately?
Kinds of Prescription Drugs Commonly Abused
There are many medications that are likely to be abused because of the way they affect the brain and a person’s mood. Three classes of drugs that are most often abused are:
- Opioids: These are used for treating pain. When used over a long period of time, they are addictive because they give the user a pleasant feeling.
- Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants: These are medications used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Over time, the body needs more CNS depressants to get the same feeling as when they person started taking them.
- Stimulants: Stimulants are commonly used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder.
Caregivers should be certain they know if their aging relative is taking any of these kinds of drugs. If you’re not sure, talk to the doctor or pharmacist.
Signs of Abuse
There are several physical symptoms that caregivers might notice in an older adult who is abusing prescription drugs. However, the kinds of symptoms depends on the type of drug being abused. For example, opioids cause drowsiness while stimulants cause agitation. Though the physical symptoms might vary, the behavioral signs of prescription drug abuse are common to all types of medications. Some of the signs include:
- Stealing or forging prescriptions.
- Taking more of the medication than the directions indicate.
- Changes in personality, such as mood swings or a hostile attitude.
- Changes in sleep patterns, like sleeping too much or sleeping less.
- Making bad decisions.
- Frequently claiming they “lost” a prescription or asking for early refills.
- Going to more than one doctor for the same prescription.
Caregivers who suspect that their aging relative is abusing prescription drugs should talk to the older adult’s doctor about their concerns. The doctor can offer a referral to a treatment program. Caregivers may also wish to talk to the senior about what they are seeing. Let them know in a non-judgmental way that you are aware they have a problem and want to help them.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED ONE IS CONSIDERING CAREGIVERS IN HUNTERSVILLE, NC, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT GOLDEN HEART SENIOR CARE OF CHARLOTTE. (704) 246-5806.