Senior Drug Addiction- Part Two

Joy Hollowell

Updated 2 years ago

Drug addiction is a chronic disease. It does not discriminate against gender, race or age. Seniors are at great risk because they account for one-third of all medications prescribed by doctors. It’s known as the hidden epidemic in our state. Health experts say senior drug addiction is all too often misunderstood or even mis-diagnosed. And, anyone is vulnerable. Joy Hollowell continues her special report on how easy it is for elderly Mainers to become addicted. ====”Jonathan was my twin brother. I’m an identical twin. And unfortunately he passed away in ’93 of AIDS.”Scott Davis was in his third year of medical residency at the time. “And rather than deal with the loss,” says Davis, “the grief, those issues when he died, I turned to narcotics.” Davis says being a doctor helped hide his addiction. “I even had providers who would say, ‘Well, you’re a professional, you’re a doctor, you’re educated, you know what you’re doing, here. Let me give you a month’s worth of Vicoden with five refills,” says Davis. Eventually, even that didn’t work. “It was probably four to five years in my disease of addiction,” says Davis, “and at one point, to be honest here, I had written a prescription that I shouldn’t have, for myself.” Davis has since written a book about his journey to recovery And he’s taken on addiction in his professional life, as an Addiction Treatment Specialist at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. “Individuals very quickly develop a tolerance to these drugs, with the opiates. Within three to four weeks, even if someone is taking the medicine as prescribed,” says Dr. Davis. “The problem that with seniors as well is that as we get older, our bodies react differently to the metabolism of drugs.” “Sometimes, these family members who are just trying to be helpful to our family, our loved ones, and we think we’re doing the right thing by changing their medications, that’s stuff that we absolutely do not recommend,” says Penobscot County Chief Deputy Troy Morton. Morton and other law enforcement work closely with the medical community, to make sure seniors as well as their care givers, are aware of the dangers of prescription drugs. “From our experiences, there’s really no age limit,” says Chief Deputy Morton. “We’ve seen young teens involved and we’ve also seen our seniors involved.” So how do you know when a senior is battling addiction?”One red flag is certainly- how much are they taking?” says Davis. “Did they start taking one to two and now they’re taking four to six at a time?” Changes in behavior, excuses as to why they’re taking so many pills, or even hiding their medications are also tip offs. Dr. Davis says previous alcohol or substance abuse can be triggers as well. “It is important not to panic,” says Dr. Davis. “And to understand that there is very successful treatment out there.”===There is help available for seniors, care givers or family members who are concerned about addiction.Office of Substance Abuse Information and Resource Center 1-800-499-0027 http://www.maineosa.org Emergency Hotline 1-888-568-1112Eastern Area Agency on Aging 1-800-432-7812


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