An article by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel did an extensive research piece on the rising trend of seniors and narcotics use to control chronic pain. According to the article, opioid dispersal to people aged 60 and over has increased by over 30% since 2007; this is double the growth for prescriptions dispensed in the age bracket directly below that (ages 40-59). Interestingly, as quoted from the article, " In 2009, the American Geriatrics Society joined others in advocating for greater opioid use to treat chronic pain in seniors, especially those 75 and older. The group's guidelines are a key reference for thousands of doctors on the front line of medicine. The new guidelines recommended that over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, be used rarely and that doctors instead consider prescribing opioids for all patients with moderate to severe pain." The members of the panel recommending these guidelines said that they relied only on personal experience and their own research, which they admitted was weak. Additionally, at least half of these panel members had finanical ties to prescription drug companies that sell and manufacture opiates. The panel members said they relied on research and their own experience in revising the guidelines, acknowledging "existing weak scientific evidence."
Interestingly, seniors who were prescribed these opioid drugs said that they felt the medication was too strong for their medical complaints. For the elderly, frequent use of these drugs can lead to dangerous side effects such as falling (and subsequently fracturing bones), getting into car accidents, overdosing, and memory and cognition problems. Side effects
include overdosing, increased risk of falls and fractures in older
people, serious cognitive problems and a condition in which opioids
actually cause worsening pain.
If you or an elderly loved one feels that you have been wrongly prescribed a painkiller that is too strong, you may need to consult a trained physician about your complaints. Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer specializing in automobile accidents and elder abuse and neglect. For more information on his firm, please click here.