Medication Overdose Awareness
August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. This worldwide annual campaign was established to “end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind,” according to the initiative’s website, overdoseday.com. Late last year, USC News reported that senior overdose, specifically relating to opioids, had increased.
Fellowship Square takes a look at the dangers of prescription and non-prescription overdose and how seniors can prevent the risks.
The article titled, “Risk of opioid overdose appears higher in older Americans, USC study indicates,” states that older Americans were relying on high doses of opioids more than younger adults.
Often used to manage pain, opioids can be found in both prescriptions such as Vicodin and morphine. They become even more dangerous when combined with “benzodiazepines, a class of sedatives commonly prescribed for anxiety, seizures or insomnia.” Combining opioids with benzodiazepines further increases the risk of overdose and death.
Because these many of these symptoms are fairly common among seniors, it makes sense that this demographic is at risk of overdose. High-risk opioid use is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “equal to or greater than 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day. According to the article, “MME measures a drug’s potency in comparison with morphine. For example, 10 tablets of Vicodin – the most commonly used prescription opioid – is considered 50 MME.”
Whether seniors are taking multiple prescription medications, are self-prescribing to find physical and mental comfort, or perhaps have trouble remembering if and when they took their medications, overdose is a real risk for older adults. The FDA suggests seniors write down any and all medications they are taking to show their physician during any physical exam (and even dental or eye appointment). Share this list with a loved one and keep it handy when traveling just in case of an emergency. The Association also recommends seniors store medications properly and learns about all of the potential side effects of each medication.
For those that have trouble remembering if they have taken their medication or how much they are supposed to take and when, there are multiple pill reminder apps that can also track medical information, calendar upcoming healthcare appointments, and more.
Fellowship Square encourages seniors to take caution with their medication in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day and in honor of their own health. For those that feel they may be at risk for overdose, see a physician right away.