Among seniors, chronic pain conditions may lead to an addiction to prescription pain medication. Rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative spine disease, recurring shingles and diabetic neuropathy are just a few age-related health problems that can cause chronic pain. Unfortunately, medications used to relieve pain are some of the most addictive substances available to anyone with a doctor’s prescription for them.
Not all seniors taking pain pills become addicted. Addiction to pain pills depends on a number of factors: the intensity of the pain, how well the person is able to cope with the pain, genetics and other biopsychosocial elements that influence a senior’s life.
Seniors taking more pain medication than prescribed eventually develop a tolerance for their medication. Although tolerance makes the liver process the medication much more quickly and effectively, the brain does not. In fact, one of the first signs of addiction in seniors is justifying their need to take three pills instead of one pill because “one pill just doesn’t work anymore.”
Pain Medication Addiction Symptoms in Seniors
Warning signs that may indicate a senior is addicted to their pain medication include:
- Not following directions for taking the medication
- Running out of pills before they are allowed to get a refill
- Personality changes, moodiness and withdrawing from family and friends
- Increasing problems with remembering and concentrating (when not attributed to dementia, stroke or other neurological condition)
- Neglecting personal hygiene (not changing clothes daily, unwashed hair)
Seniors addicted to prescription medications may lie to their doctor to get another prescription. They may say things like “the pain is worse,” “I lost my pills,” or “what you’re giving me isn’t working,” Unfortunately, it’s very easy for seniors to visit another doctor and receive prescriptions for the same kind of pain medication they were receiving from the other physician.
Unlike younger adults, who often start purchasing pain pills off the street to feed their addiction, seniors are more likely to receive sympathetic responses by well-meaning doctors who unknowingly perpetuate their addiction by writing additional prescriptions.
Alcohol Addiction Symptoms in Seniors
Painful health conditions may lead seniors to depend on alcohol for pain relief. Loneliness, isolation from family, undiagnosed depression and unresolved past traumas are also reasons why seniors develop an alcohol addiction.
Addiction symptoms in seniors who drink too much include:
- Inability to limit drinking at family or social occasions
- Driving while drunk
- Being arrested for drunk driving
- Hiding alcohol bottles around the home
- Becoming defensive when someone confronts them about drinking
- Mixing pills and alcohol
- Suffering withdrawals when they can’t drink (nausea, shaking, sweating, headache, flu-like symptoms)
Additionally, alcoholism in seniors is reflected more vividly in their physical appearance than in younger adults. Pallid skin, grayer hair, sunken-in face and increased wrinkling and folding of facial skin are possible signs of alcoholism in seniors.
Alternative Methods for Chronic Pain Management
For seniors suffering a prescription medication addiction, 12 Keys Rehab offers holistic pain management strategies that help control pain without resorting to using addictive pills. Seniors entering 12 Keys Rehab for a pain medication addiction may need to detox before participating in personalized therapeutic programs. Holistic services supporting natural pain management techniques include meditation, exercise and stress reduction imagery.
Many of our clients find that, after completing our comprehensive treatment plan for pain medication addiction and/or alcoholism, they do not need to take as much medication to cope with their chronic pain.
Contact us today if you know a senior who needs help overcoming an addiction.