South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday October 23, 2018
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September 2010 - Volume 7 - Issue 3

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Substance Abuse and Misuse Among Older Adults On The Rise

Local Hospital Focused on Providing Solutions to Help

Substance abuse and misuse may not readily come to mind as a health concern for the elderly, but it is a growing problem for an increasing number of older Americans. Elderly people make up only 13 percent of the population, but purchase 70 percent of over-the-counter drugs and account for approximately one-third of all medications prescribed in the United States. Nearly one in five elderly people either drink alcohol or use medications unsafely; however, help is on the way.
 
The Palms Medical Detoxification Center at Good Samaritan Medical Center treats the physical aspects of people who are addicted to drugs in a hospital based setting. The Center and its medical team are prepared to meet the unique needs of the elderly. People age 65 or older are especially susceptible to substance abuse or misuse because aging can make the body respond differently to alcohol or drugs. Even a minimal amount of alcohol or drug can impair an older person, and medications may remain longer in the system if kidney function has decreased over time. Furthermore, combining alcohol and certain drugs can cause dangerous interactions, such as increased effects of sedatives or weakened effects of blood thinners.
 
“Most physicians can agree medical detoxification is key to a successful recovery from drug or alcohol addiction,” said Good Samaritan Medical Center CEO Mark Nosacka. “We’re committed to providing this much needed service to the community.” The Palms features a private entrance and various amenities, including a state-of-the-art exercise facility, flat panel televisions and direct dial phones, WiFi and computer access, and personally selected meal options.
 
The Palms Medical Detoxification Center strives to offer treatment that is gentle, painless and safe. Patients receive anonymity in a setting that more closely resembles an upscale hotel than a traditional doctor’s office. This supervised and comforting medical setting is critical to addressing alcohol or drug abuse and misuse of older adults, which often occurs unintentionally when prescriptions are not filled; medications are taken longer or discontinued earlier than directed; drugs are borrowed or shared; or doses are not taken at the correct times. Factors that can contribute to misuse are typically related to age and can include:
• Physical effects of aging such as the liver taking longer to break down certain drugs or the stomach taking longer to empty
• Physical ailments that make opening a bottle difficult, problems swallowing pills, not hearing medication instructions, or complicated dosage schedules
• Psychological problems such as failing memory or cognitive impairment
• Language or cultural barriers that may impede treatment
• Using less medicine than the prescribed amount due to the high cost of the drug or transportation issues to get to a pharmacy to fill a prescription
 
Indicators of substance abuse or misuse may be more difficult to identify in an older person compared to a younger adult. Since most elderly are retired, they are at home and are less likely to miss work or appointments due to substance abuse. Falls, confusion, physical problems, and memory lapses may be incorrectly associated with aging or other medical conditions rather than a chemical dependence. Other warning signs can include irritability, memory loss, lack of interest in usual activities, poor hygiene and nutrition, chronic pain, and difficulty paying attention.
 
Older adults may be embarrassed and reluctant to seek help. If an elderly person sees more than one physician, each doctor may not have a complete picture of the patient’s medications. It’s important for medical professionals and caregivers to be aware of the warning signs and direct those older adults suspected of having an addiction problem to an appropriate, caring treatment center.
Fortunately, the PalmsMedicalDetoxificationCenter can help elderly adults struggling with addiction get on the safe path to recovery. For more information, call (561) 671-7027.
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