Elderly Americans Often Overlooked In Opioid Epidemic

Robert Mangino
May 28, 2018 - 6:51 pm
Passing Pills
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PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The Senate Aging Committee is focusing on the opioid crisis and the often overlooked elderly individuals impacted by it.

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Bob Casey, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee held a hearing Wednesday focusing on the prevention and treatment of opioid misuse among older Americans.

In 2016, one in three Medicare Part D participants received an opioid prescription according to the Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General. And although the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) reported opioid misuse doubled between 2002 and 2014 among Americans 50 and older, Medicare Part D does not cover methadone treatment for those who become addicted.  

William Stauffer is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance. He told the KDKA Radio News methadone for treatment of opioid addiction is not covered because of where it is dispensed.

“There are some treatments available through Medicare, but it is rather limited.”

But there are treatment options available for the elderly.

“The Wolf administration and the Department of Drug and Alcohol, they’ve actually set up a help line that actually anybody of any age can call who wants help,” Stauffer said.

Anyone who calls 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 will receive help finding treatment in conjunction with SAMHSA. The helpline is 24-hour, free and confidential.

Stauffer says older Americans have different health care needs as they experience more loss, isolation and medical complications. Symptoms of addiction can often be misdiagnosed as common conditions such as depression or dementia. If a diagnosis is reached, lack of transportation can also make seeking treatment difficult for older Americans.

“But I think the biggest factor in this is our lack of awareness because when we think of substance use conditions we think of young people, we don’t think of granny and grandpop.”

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