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Signs of Elderly Prescription Drug Abuse

Drug abuse among the elderly is on the rise. The overuse and abuse of prescription medication is the most common form of drug abuse in the elderly. Although less than 13 percent of the U.S. population is 65 years and older, they consume approximately one-third of all medications prescribed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “elderly persons use prescription medications three times as frequently as the general population and have the poorest rates of compliance with directions for taking medications. It is now estimated that 17 percent of persons aged 60 or older are affected by prescription drug abuse.”(

There are key things to look for if you are concerned that your loved one is abusing prescription drugs. More specifically, gives the following are things to look for to determine if an older adult might be abusing prescription drugs:

“A person who is addicted to a prescription drug may:

  • Get a prescription for the same medicine from two different doctors
  • Fill a prescription for the same medicine at two different pharmacies
  • Take more of a prescription medicine than they used to or take more than is instructed on the label
  • Take the medicine at different times or more often than is instructed on the label
  • Have behavior changes, such as becoming more withdrawn or angry
  • Often think or talk about a medicine
  • Be afraid to go without taking a medicine
  • Be uncomfortable or defensive when you ask about the medicine
  • Make excuses for why they need a medicine
  • Store “extra” pills in their purse or in their pocket
  • Sneek or hide medicine
  • Have been treated for alcohol, drug, or prescription drug abuse in the past”(

The two most commonly prescribed and abused drugs among the elderly are narcotic analgesics and sedative-hypnotic drugs. These drugs, designed to kill pain and help sleep are part of the abuse of prescription drugs by the elderly that is a growing problem in the U.S.