Opioid Prescriptions Target Older, Poorer Americans

Older American

Unemployment Drives Opioid Abuse Among Older Americans

A recent CDC report has found that older and poorer Americans are receiving a disproportionate number of opioid prescriptions.

As reported in MarketWatch, misuse among older adults is expected to double to 2.4% from 1.2% between 2004 and 2020, according to Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They’re more likely to suffer from chronic pain from work-related injuries or cancer and other illnesses that occur later in life.

The average dose of opioids prescribed in 2016 exceeded manufacturer’s recommended amounts, and older adults are more prone to suffering from side effects, such as complications breathing, confusion and an increased risk of falls. And multiple studies have found them to be highly addictive, hence the nationwide epidemic where opioids ground down and used as street drugs.

Unemployment has a direct link to opioid deaths — as a county unemployment rate increases by one percentage point, the death per 100,000 from opioids rises 3.6% and overdose rises 7%, according to a research report distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. While the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic was felt predominantly in black communities, the opioid epidemic has hit white Americans living in rural areas where there’s less access to treatment services and health care, and higher unemployment and poverty.

The researchers suspect mental health issues arising in part to economic hardship are a cause for such high usage. Earlier this year, researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the University of Michigan found that about one-fifth of those with a mental health problem received opioids. While they likely have a physical pain, they may feel that pain more acutely, the researchers said.

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To learn more about the surprising demographics behind the opioid crisis, please visit MarketWatch.

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