Preventing Opioid Misuse and Abuse Among an Aging Population

Denise GillinHuman Resources, News, Risk Management

By Josh Mountz, M.Ed, Prevention Specialist, Compass Mark

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Compass Mark and Murray are partnering to relay information about the opioid crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose remains a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Overdoses involving prescription and illicit opioids take the lives of 128 people every day.

The population of the United States is graying as more and more baby boomers enter their senior years, a demographic shift often referred to by the US Census Bureau as a “gray tsunami.” One issue facing the senior population is the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, especially opioids. This can occur for a variety of reasons:

Tolerance: If someone is on a medication for a long time, their body becomes used to it and they need to take more and more to get the desired effect. This could cause someone to use more than the prescribed amount, increasing the chance of dependence.

Cognitive decline: With advanced age, a patient may forget they already took their medication, accidentally overusing the medication and increasing the chance for dependence.

Addiction: While most prescriptions for opioid medication are valid and patients use them responsibly, many studies show that medical use is directly linked to non-medical use.

Diversion: An equally important topic regarding seniors is how easily their medications are diverted to young people. The Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) reports that approximately 40% of young people who misuse medication, take it from a friend or family member.

What Can and Should We Do?

Some steps that can be taken to avoid the misuse / abuse of opioid medications:

  • Make sure all medication is stored properly, preferably in a locked box.
  • Take all medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Count medications often.
  • Ask questions about lost medication or someone requesting an early refill.
  • Seek help if you think someone is misusing / abusing medication.

If you think you, or someone you know, is having a problem with opioids (or any other substances) call Compass Mark at 717.299.2831 for help or more information.

You can also contact the Murray Risk Management Team or your Murray Risk Control Consultant at 717.397.9600 for additional assistance on resources and tools for prevention, including materials contained in the Succeed / KPA risk management platform.


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