In the US, people over 60 years old constitute 30% of all prescription drug takers. This is despite the fact that they only make up 15% of the US population. That’s a lot of medication. The lack of awareness about overdose and side effects contributes to some staggering statistics on drug overdose in seniors, on hospitalizations and drug related deaths.
We’re so busy educating the younger generation about prescription drug dangers that we have forgotten all about our wonderful seniors. The results of this oversight are upsetting. 30% of hospitalizations relate to our seniors with 51% of deaths caused by prescription drug side effects. Drug overdose in seniors is a real thing!
We’re talking about 600 million prescriptions being sold to America’s seniors alone.
Most seniors use a combination of prescriptions for various ailments. 37% of American seniors take 5 or more prescriptions at any one time, on a weekly basis. This is just prescription medication and does not include over the counter medications.
With so many medications being used at the same time, it’s no wonder that the risk of drug overdose in seniors and adverse drug interactions is crazy! The risks of overdose also increase as you age, alongside your changing body and hormones. These changes affect how the medications work as well. For example, the heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood around the body. The metabolism changes which affects how well we process toxins. All these small changes mean that our bodies handle the medications differently from 10 years previous. Sometimes the medications work slower or less efficiently. Sometimes they work too fast or too much and it triggers stronger or more uncommon side effects.
Let’s get educating people!
The risk of drug overdose in seniors is real and just as important as drug overdoses in adolescents.
Here are 5 top tips on educating against drug interactions and side effects.
1. Read up about the possible side effects of all drugs that you take so you stay well informed on what could go wrong. This includes adjusting your diet so that the food you eat does not react with the medication. A good example of this is the adverse reaction of statins and grapefruit.
2. Taking pills is not always the only solutions. Before you start using a medication consider other possibilities, try to avoid any unnecessary medication. If you’re suffering from insomnia maybe a relaxing bath, brisk walk or meditation might help you to sleep better. If you are depressed then counselling might be a better course of treatment. sometimes neutractical supplements can be cheaper and very effective.
3. Be aware that different drugs can interact with each other! This include vitamins and natural supplements! Make sure your doctor knows exactly what other medications and supplements you are taking so they can check for interactions. Overdoses and interactions most commonly occur when you have numerous doctors each prescribing their own medications, unaware of other drugs being taken at the same time.
4. Keep track of what you are taking so you don’t make an error in dosage! Use a daily, weekly or monthly pill organizer or if you’re handy with technology, use an app to keep track and remind you of what you need to take and when.
5. Over the counter cold & flu meds, pain meds, laxatives, sleeping aids and low dose aspirin can cause your body to adversely react to the prescription medication. Consult with your doctors or the pharmacist before taking anything new. If you buy medications online you can check with the online pharmacist as well, it doesn’t have to be someone local, just a professional who is qualified to talk give medication advice and counselling.
Most people do not set out to overdose on prescription drugs, especially seniors. It mostly happens accidentally, when your body starts reacting differently to the juggle of drugs, you forget what you have already taken or your drugs interact to cause a dangerous side effects.
This article on Drug abuse in Seniors gives a nice analysis of the danger of drug abuse and overdoses as we age.