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Doctors Are Not Explaining Opioid Risks to Older Patients



Researchers involved with the University of Michigan's National Poll on Healthy Aging Sample of 2,000 Americans, aged 50 to 80, about what their healthcare providers talk about when they prescribe opioid medication to them. In the past two years, 589 said they were filled with opioid prescription. This group knew how to do it often, but did not recall their doctors or pharmacists talking about the risk of addiction, the risk of overdose, or what to do with leftover pills.

Drug policymakers and researchers I spoke about the findings evidence that health providers might be neglectful. Doctors failing to communicate effectively with patients is an ongoing issue, they said. A lot of doctors are burned out. Others do not have enough time to spend with their patients. They are often overcommitted because their offices are understaffed and under-resourced. Gary Franklin, the Vice President of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. [More …] 1

9659003] Working with older people can be different, and sometimes more difficult than working with younger people-especially when it comes to opioid prescriptions, says Shannon Skowronski, a specialist at the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging. "The prevalence of chronic and acute conditions that might result in pain, along with the physiological changes in the body as you grow older … that's really complicated," she says. In fact, the Washington State Agency's Medical Directors' Group has started to address the elderly as a special population because of "having a biological, psychological, and social importance."

Sheila Vakharia, a policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, has further discussed the issues that have been raised in the new poll , says, "What are they doing?" because they may be drinking a little bit more often and a little heavier than some folks who are in their eighties. "And it can make it harder to breathe , cause confusion, and increase, which are harder for older adults in general to deal with.

In the moment when a doctor is prescribing, pain-relief pills to an elderly patient, the physician might not go into the nitty-gritty details of using opioids because they are only young patients are at risk. "The messages that doctors give to patients are largely dictated by how they perceive patients," Vakharia told me. Yet older adults are likely to have higher levels of pain compared to younger populations, which may inspire misuse and abuse. And though older adults have lower rates of abusing opioids than young adults, when they have opioid-use disorder, they appear to be at a higher risk of death, according to a report co-authored by Skowronski.


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