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Older Americans Struggle with Opiates

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More older Americans are winding up in addiction treatment, primarily because of abuse of opiate-based prescription drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

A new SAMHSA study finds that treatment admissions among Americans ages 55 and older increased 32 percent between 1995 and 2002. Alcohol remains the biggest drug of abuse among older adults, but more are now citing opiates as their primary drug of abuse — 12 percent in 2002, compared to 6.8 percent in 1995. That makes opiates the second-most-cited drug of abuse behind alcohol.

“We are only beginning to realize the pervasiveness of substance abuse among older adults,” SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said.

SAMHSA and the Food and Drug Administration took the opportunity to announce the availability of a new campaign called “Do the Right Dose,” aimed at educating older adults about opiate-based medications. “Through the materials we are releasing today, we are reaching out now to older adults to warn them that prescription pain relievers are safe and effective when used correctly, but could lead to abuse and addiction if misused,” said Curie.

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