Article by guest blogger Tara Heath.
The Dangers of Prescription Drugs for Seniors
Health issues are an unfortunate but common result of aging. For that reason, many seniors take prescription drugs on a regular basis, and some take several different prescription medications each day.
While all of the drugs prescribed by doctors are considered safe and approved for use, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t without risks. Combining prescription drugs may end up being even more problematic.
Doctors Can Make Mistakes
According to Well, a New York Times-based blog, a recent study shows that about one in five seniors that takes part in Medicare is being prescribed a drug that health authorities have advised against giving to seniors because of potentially severe side effects. While this problem is particularly common in the Southern United States according to Well, the fact that even trusted doctors may not always make the correct decision when it comes to prescription drug choices is a bit concerning, and something all seniors should keep in mind.
If you’re taking prescription medication or caring for a senior that does, take the time to do the research on the medication and evaluate whether it’s appropriate for their age group. This type of information can easily be found online, but a conversation with a qualified pharmacist or an opinion from a different doctor can be helpful, as well.
Unfortunately, the risk of side effects is always present with prescription drugs, but these problems are easily compounded in seniors – especially those with several medical problems. While most doctors don’t prescribe medications that have more severe side effects for seniors, each individual reacts differently.
Some seniors may not fully understand the side effects of a drug before taking it, or may not be aware of the fact that a drug could be problematic because of a past health condition. The side effects of many prescription drugs are also made worse when combined with over-the-counter drugs – something many seniors don’t think about.
Combining prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs also has the potential to lead to a variety of serious health problems, and all over-the-counter drugs should be approved by a doctor.
Seniors or anyone caring for an elderly individual should always talk with the person’s doctor about side effects and the individual’s medical history before starting a new prescription.
Addiction Is a Real Concern
When most people think about prescription drug addiction, they aren’t thinking of seniors who are prescribed medicine by the doctors for short-term or chronic health problems. However, many of the drugs seniors take can be additive – even when they’re taken as recommended.
This is particularly true of opioid painkillers, drugs that affect the central nervous system to reduce anxiety and treat sleep disorders, and stimulants prescribed for anxiety and other problems like narcolepsy.
If you, a parent, or a loved one is prescribed any of these drugs, make sure the person taking the medication understands the risk of addiction and talks to their doctor about it.
Many seniors need prescription medications in order to stay healthy and function properly on a day-to-day basis, and for most, prescription drugs are incredibly beneficial, but that doesn’t mean seniors should simply take anything prescribed to them by their doctor without understanding the medication and doing research.
If you’re caring for an elderly family member or loved one, the task of researching medications and asking questions may fall to you. Take the time to check out any new prescription drugs or changes in medication when they occur to avoid as many complications down the road as possible.
Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She knows how dangerous prescription medication can be and encourages those taking it daily to do their research first. As a health writer, she contributes to the Presidio Home Care blog.