A new report from the Institute of Medicine says the U.S. is not prepared to deal with the mental health issues of the growing elderly population — especially addiction. Alcohol is one main problem, the other is prescription drugs, such as pain killers or anti-anxiety pills.
Duke University psychiatrist Dr. Dan Blazer, one of the editors of the report, says these addictive drugs are commonly prescribed to seniors.
“This is an emerging issue that physicians and families both need to recognize, because the overuse and misuse of medications can lead to significant problems,” Blazer said.
The report calls for more training for treatment providers and better health-care coordination to handle this issue.
William Lorman, chief clinical officer at the Livengrin Foundation treatment centers, says prescription drug abuse often has been overlooked in older patients.
“They took two pills instead of one because they forgot. Or they didn’t take it, so the next day they took three. And so we were attributing it to old age,” he said. “Now we’re identifying that it’s more intentional. We’re seeing more intentionality in the abuse of medication.”
Lorman says his organization has started to offer special treatment groups for elderly addicts that cater to their specific needs and station in life.
The report from the Institute of Medicine was commissioned by Congress to get a better sense of workforce needs when it comes to treating the mental health needs of America’s growing older population.