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Prescription drug abuse and misuse among older adults can sometimes be difficult for families and doctors to identify. Signs of addiction may be overlooked as a normal part of aging or mistaken for symptoms of a medical or mental health disorder such as diabetes, dementia, or depression. Those with substance abuse issues may be reluctant to seek treatment on their own due to the stigma or they may not be aware they are abusing. Because prescription drug abuse often goes undiagnosed or untreated, the true prevalence of substance abuse among older adults remains unknown. However, an analysis by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that the overall number of older adults who misuse and abuse prescription drugs will likely increase as the size of the population continues to grow. With over 80% of 57- to 85-year-olds taking at least one prescription medication on a daily basis, it is important to recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse to help end what’s being called the “invisible epidemic.”
When to See a Doctor
If you suspect that you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of prescription drug abuse, contact a doctor immediately about your concerns. The doctor can diagnose whether the problem is prescription drug abuse and help determine treatment which may include counseling, medicine, or both.
Substance abuse services are covered by Medicare when reasonable and necessary. This includes early intervention services called “Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)” which aims to help individuals before more extensive or specialized treatment is needed. Medicare Part A may cover inpatient treatment in a hospital, and Medicare Part B may cover outpatient treatment through a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), including psychotherapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and other services. In addition, Medicare Part D sponsors must include coverage for Part D drugs when medically necessary for the treatment of opioid dependence.
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Last Revised 11/15/2017