Despite warnings from experts, older people are using more anti-anxiety and sleep medications, putting them at risk of serious side effects and even overdoses.
by Paula Spahn
“At first, the pills helped her feel so much better.
“Jessica Falstein, an artist living in the East Village in Manhattan, learned she had an anxiety disorder in 1992. It led to panic attacks, a racing pulse, sleeplessness. ‘Whenever there was too much stress, the anxiety would become almost intolerable, like acid in the veins,’ she recalled.
“When a psychopharmacologist prescribed the drug Klonopin, everything brightened. ‘It just leveled me out,’ Ms. Falstein said. ‘I had more energy. And it helped me sleep, which I was desperate for.’
“After several months, however, the horrible symptoms returned. ‘My body became accustomed to half a milligram, and the drug stopped working,’ she said. ‘So then I was up to one milligram. And then two.’ Her doctor kept increasing the dosage and added Ativan to the mix.
“Now 67, with her health and stamina in decline …
SOURCE: California Healthline – (Illustration created using Getty Images)
“Consider it America’s other prescription drug epidemic.
“For decades, experts have warned that older Americans are taking too many unnecessary drugs, often prescribed by multiple doctors, for dubious or unknown reasons. Researchers estimate that 25 percent of people ages 65 to 69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, a figure that jumps to nearly 46 percent for those between 70 and 79. Doctors say it is not uncommon to encounter patients taking more than 20 drugs to treat acid reflux, heart disease, depression or insomnia or other disorders.
“Unlike the overuse of opioid painkillers, the polypharmacy problem has attracted little attention, even though its hazards are well documented. But some doctors are working to reverse the trend.”
Click here to download the newsletter as a .pdf file.Each week week the Office of the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging releases a Friday newsletter with information relevant to activities, issues and events for older Pennsylvanians and persons with disabilities across the Commonwealth.
This week the Secretary writes about older Pennsylvanians and “families affected by mental health and substance use disorders.”
Robert Roskind is the owner of the Oasis cafe in Carrboro, North Carolina, where a typical serving of kratom is a heaping teaspoon of powder in a mug of hot water, orange juice or chocolate almond milk. As consumption of the opioid-like botanic grows, some cities and states are banning its use. – Christine Vestal, The Pew Charitable Trusts
“CARRBORO, N.C. — On a sunny November afternoon in this quiet college community, a steady stream of customers walks through the doors of a local cafe called Oasis for a cup of an increasingly popular herbal beverage. The menu offers coffee, black tea, beer, wine and pastries, but nearly everyone opts for a $5 mug of kratom (pronounced KRAY-dum).
“A powder ground from the leaves of an indigenous Southeast Asian tree related to the coffee plant, kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) offers pain relief and mood enhancement, similar to prescription painkillers.
“Advocates say the substance, which does not depress the respiratory system and therefore presents little to no overdose risk, could help reduce the nation’s reliance on highly addictive and often deadly prescription painkillers. Some addiction experts also argue the plant could be used as an alternative to methadone, buprenorphine and Vivitrol in medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction.
“Used for centuries to fight fatigue, pain and anxiety in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Thailand, kratom was rarely taken in the United States until recently.”
Continue reading this STATELINE article, click here.
Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event. Encourage someone you know to use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.
“About 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. While cigarette smoking rates have dropped (from 42% in 1965 to 15.1% in 2015), cigar, pipe, and hookah – other dangerous and addictive ways to smoke tobacco – are very much on the rise. Smoking kills people – there’s no ‘safe’ way to smoke tobacco.
“Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age. Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help. Getting help through counseling or medications can double or triple the chances of quitting successfully.” –
“Almost 70 percent of adult smokers want to quit smoking, according to a U.S. national survey. Conventional quit-smoking treatments, including counseling and medication, can double or triple the chances that a smoker will quit successfully. Some people also try complementary health approaches to help them kick the smoking habit. In one survey of people who visited a tobacco cessation clinic, two-thirds said that they were interested in trying complementary approaches.” – Learn more about QUITTING NOW here.
Michelle Holley holds a photograph of her daughter Jaime Holley, 19, who died of a heroin overdose in November 2016. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
“Drug overdose deaths, once rare, are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpassing peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns and HIV infection.
“As a former public health official, clinician and researcher, I’ve been engaged in efforts to control the opioid addiction epidemic for the past 15 years.
“The data show that the situation is dire and getting worse. Until opioids are prescribed more cautiously and until effective opioid addiction treatment becomes easier to access, overdose deaths will likely remain at record high levels.
“How the crisis started
“Opioids are drugs that stimulate the brain’s opiate receptors. Some are made from opium and some are completely synthetic. In the U.S., the most commonly prescribed opioids are hydrocodone and oxycodone, which are classified as semi-synthetic because they are synthesized from opium. Heroin is also a semi-synthetic opioid.”
Continue reading this Conversation article, click here.
In Lebanon County, people from families grappling with opoid addiction are invited to come to the next talk time cafe on Wednesday, October 25 at the Lebanon Community Library to have no pressure, no lectures conversations with others about addiction.
“Nothing seemed to help the patient — and hospice staff didn’t know why.
“They sent home more painkillers for weeks. But the elderly woman, who had severe dementia and incurable breast cancer, kept calling out in pain.
“The answer came when the woman’s daughter, who was taking care of her at home, showed up in the emergency room with a life-threatening overdose of morphine and oxycodone. It turned out she was high on her mother’s medications, stolen from the hospice-issued stash.
“Dr. Leslie Blackhall handled that case and two others at the University of Virginia’s palliative care clinic, and uncovered a wider problem: As more people die at home on hospice, some of the powerful, addictive drugs they are prescribed are ending up in the wrong hands.”
A Mom “is on a mission to spare others that unfathomable pain.”
by Megan Thielking
“RANGER, Ind. — Becky Savage always starts her talks to students and parents the same way. She shows them pictures of her teenage sons, Nick and Jack, who loved hockey, Taco Bell, and late-night hangouts.
“Then, she tells them what happened on June 14, 2015.
“Savage was picking up dirty clothes from 18-year-old Jack’s room that Sunday morning. He was sleeping in after a night of graduation parties with Nick and other friends. Jack didn’t respond as she picked up his laundry. She shook him, but he didn’t wake up. She knew to check his pulse — she’s a nurse. He didn’t have one. She started CPR on her son and shouted for help.
“She heard sirens wail down their street. She watched a firefighter try to resuscitate Jack. She screamed at him when she saw him give up.”
Many think that the opioid crisis is not their problem; read comments following articles in local media. The commenters think that overdoses are “druggie” problems, not theirs. The truth is that addiction crosses all demographics.
This recent People Magazine article features the pictures of some of the people who’ve died from opioid addiction – they are the faces of family members, neighbors, friends – people just like ones you probably know … right here in Berks County, in Lancaster County and in Lebanon County.