The opioid epidemic accounts for a staggering number of overdose deaths in the United States each year. But opioid use disorder among senior adults age 65 and older is often underestimated and underdiagnosed, keeping older adults from getting the treatment they need to live healthier, more satisfying lives.
A Growing Concern
Senior adults face chronic illness, pain, and trauma that can lead to misuse of prescription and illicit opioids. Research shows that:
- About 50% of senior adults who are living independently suffer from daily pain.
- Between 2006 and 2014, opioid misuse was a factor in more than 125,000 emergency department visits by adults age 65 and older.
- Senior adults who are misusing opioids are 50% more likely to be hospitalized after an emergency department visit than those not misusing opioids.
- About 22% of U.S. adults age 55 and older entered first-time treatment for opioid use disorder in 2015, compared with 25% of U.S. adults age 55 and younger.
- Between 2012 and 2015, the number of first-time opioid addiction treatment admissions for U.S. adults age 55 and older who were using heroin doubled from 2,725 to 5,636.
Help is Available
Senior adults who are struggling with opioid use disorder can get the help they need through proven, evidence-based programs such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Individuals who participate in MAT benefit from a combination of behavioral therapy and prescription medications that help them combat the effects opioids have had on their lives and bodies. Medication-assisted treatment:
- Provides a safe, controlled level of medication that helps senior adults stop misusing opioids
- Relieves withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings
- Does not impair a senior adult’s mental, physical, or social functioning
- Integrates comprehensive therapy to create the behavioral changes needed for lasting recovery
Now accepting Medicare! The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act establishes a new Medicare Part B benefit for opioid use disorder treatment services that are furnished by outpatient treatment providers on or after January 1, 2020.
These medications are not only backed by extensive research for their safety and effectiveness, but they are also proven to help individuals achieve the recovered lives they desire.