Prescription Drug Abuse by Older Americans

Data and statistics from the United States Government estimated that there were 336,000 people in the United States over the age of 55 who were misusing or addicted to prescription pain relievers in 2012. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that the figures for 2012 were 132,000 higher than 10 years previous.

Between 2007 and 2011, the number of seniors who were admitted to substance abuse treatment centers for a prescription pain medicine addiction increased by 46 percent, while the number of patients over the age of 65 who misused a prescription drug and had to be admitted to an emergency room increased by over 50 percent to 94,000 ER admissions during the time period.

Between 1999 and 2010, the overdose death rate of people over 55 increased by 3 times  to 9.4 deaths per 100,000.

Public health officials attribute the problem to an increase in prescription to older Americans for pain relief and anxiety. According to federal statistics,  about one in four adults over the age of 50 in the United States use psychoactive medications, most of which are opioids for pain relief or benzodiazepines for anxiety.

(See all prescription drug abuse statistics here.)

Source:  Peter Eisler, “Older Americans hooked on Rx: ‘I was a zombie’,” USA Today, May 21, 2014.