Senior Living Care Blog

Prescription Medication And Seniors

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Jul 9, 2019 11:00:00 AM


Substance abuse, especially with prescription medication, is a serious issue for everyone of all ages, including senior citizens. One of the most commonly used substances across the nation is prescription medications. Unfortunately, these types of drugs can lead to a number of different health problems if they aren’t used properly.


This is especially true for senior citizens as they may experience certain memory and cognitive diseases that can impact their prescription drug use. Not to mention the fact that seniors are prescribed drugs at a much higher rate than younger people.


Prescription Misuse And Abuse

Pills in a plastic pack. Prescription medication often has to be managed by seniors caretakers

Older adults are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to medication misuse and abuse. One of the main reasons for this is due to the fact that seniors have very high subscription rates. According to one study that looked at the prevalence of prescription medications in the senior community found that 37 percent of men and 36 percent of women used at least five prescription medications concurrently. Moreover, about a quarter of older adults use prescription psychoactive medications that have the potential for misuse and abuse.


Having medication and using it as prescribed is not an issue. The issue is when a patient doesn’t use it as prescribed, either intentionally or on accident. Unfortunately, medication misuse, abuse, and dependence among older adults may affect as many as 26 percent of seniors.


Senior Sensitivity

One of the biggest reasons that seniors are at more of a risk than younger individuals is due to increased sensitivity to medication and other substances they face due to body changes associated with aging. As one ages, the percentage of lean body mass and total body water decreases. Moreover, the liver’s ability to process alcohol and other substances diminishes and allows patients to feel an increased sensitivity to these substances.


Misuse, Abuse, and Dependence

While medications and prescription pills are misused quite often in the country, prescription medication can be safe if used properly. Proper use involves only using the medication as prescribed, in the correct dosage, and for the correct duration.


Misuse — Misuse of a prescription pill involves using a dose level that is more than prescribed or using a medication longer than it was prescribed. This can also include skipping doses, hoarding the drug, or giving the medication to another person.


Abuse — Abuse is a more severe form of misuse that can eventually lead to dependence. Prescription drug abuse generally causes a decline in physical or social functioning.


Dependence — Dependence is a result of persistent use of a medication that eventually changes biological functions and leads to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms if the use of the medication is stopped. It can also lead to unsuccessful attempts to stop using.


What Are Psychoactive Medications?

An older man thinking about prescription medication

Psychoactive substances generally affect the central nervous system. These types of medications can affect brain function and result in changes in mood, cognition, behavior, and consciousness. Some of these psychoactive substances also produce euphoric effects in the brain.


There are a number of health consequences of using psychoactive medications. Prolonged use of these types of medications is associated with issues like depression and cognitive decline. They can also lead to confusion, falls, and hip fractures for older adults. The use of these drugs can lead to loss of motivation, memory problems, family and social rift, problems with hygiene, and more.


The two most common forms of psychoactive prescription medications include opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines.



Opioid analgesics, also known as narcotic analgesics, is used as a treatment for pain. Opioid use specifically can lead to issues such as excessive sedation, respiratory depression, and impairment of vision.


Common forms of opioid analgesics include:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone and more



Benzodiazepines, also known as sedatives or tranquilizers, are used primarily for the treatment of certain mental health disorders such as anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia.


Common types of benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam
  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Triazolam and more



A woman holding her hands out because she wants to prevent prescription medication abuse

Despite how dangerous misusing and abusing medication can be, there are a number of different preventative methods that you can take to help an older adult not deal with these medication-related problems.


Some easy ways that patients and health care providers can work to prevent drug misuse among older adults include:

  • Inform health care providers of all medications that are being taken, as mixing some medications can cause some health side effects
  • Follow medication instructions closely and carefully
  • Do not use other people’s medications
  • Routinely screen for medication misuse
  • Provide counseling and referrals as needed


At the end of the day, this might not be enough. A lot of times, older adults may be misusing medication, even if they don’t know it. This may be due to them not fully understanding prescription misuse of it may be a different separate problem.


For instance, if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, they may accidentally take more medication than they are prescribed if they forgot that they took it earlier in the day. This can lead to obvious health risks and consequences.


Next Steps

As we know, prescription medications can be dangerous. However, they can be especially dangerous for senior citizens as many older adults have weakened immune systems while also being prescribed many medications at once. If not taken correctly, these medications can lead to health-related problems and can even cause addiction in some people. This is especially true if a person is suffering from an issue like Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you have a loved one dealing with one of these problems, it may interfere with their day-to-day life and can cause many problems. Luckily, there are assisted living facilities and caregivers available to make your loved one’s life a little easier.


Landmark Senior Living is one organization that can help your loved one deal with issues related to prescription medication, or other problems that they may be facing. Landmark can offer residents access to high-quality care while also providing them with social activities to keep them happy during their time with Landmark. If you are interested in learning more about what Landmark can offer, please visit our website and reach out to schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our assisted living facilities in Hobbs.


Learn More Here!


Topics: Senior Health

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