PMP Blog

The PMP Blog offers updates and resources for providers who use the PMP. The posts include timely information and guidance for effective use of the PMP to improve communication and patient-centered care.

Oct 2023

How Physicians Can Help Prevent Opioid Misuse in Older Adults

The opioid crisis affects older adults more than physicians, families, caregivers and even older patients themselves may realize. Because of the physical, mental and social changes of aging, this population is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of opioids—and therefore prescription opioid misuse.

Texas physicians who care for older adults have a critical role in preventing misuse, addiction and overdose. Even if you don’t often prescribe opioids, it’s important to talk with older patients, and their families or caregivers, about the dangers of prescription opioid misuse.

Texas Older Adults Are at Risk

There are numerous reasons why older adults are at a height- ened risk of prescription opioid misuse, including:

  • Changes in cognition: Age-related memory issues are normal in older adults and can increase the chance of unin- tentional misuse, whether by forgetting to take a medication, taking it too often or taking the wrong amount.

  • Physical susceptibility: As the body ages, it often cannot absorb and break down medications as easily as it once did.

  • Increased amount of prescription medications: Chronic health conditions tend to develop as part of aging, and older adults are often prescribed more medicines than other age groups, leading to a higher rate of exposure to potentially addictive medications. Because of their increased amount of prescription meds, older adults may also be at a higher risk for drug interactions.

  • Coping with big life changes: Stressful events such as retirement, grief and loss, declining health or a change in living situation may lead to an increased vulnerability to prescription opioid misuse.

It’s critical to ensure that older patients and their families or caregivers are fully aware of the risks of prescription opioid misuse. Make sure to discuss the following:

Talking About Prescription Opioid Misuse With Older Adults

  • Be aware of medication interactions: Explain that a reaction between two or more medications can affect how a drug works or cause unwanted side effects. Encourage patients to read the label when taking a new drug and keep a detailed list of medications and doses to share with other providers.

  • Take medications exactly as prescribed: Never increase, cut back or stop taking prescription medication before talking to a doctor—and avoid mixing them with alcohol and other drugs.

  • Never share prescriptions: From different dosage needs to potential side effects, sharing a prescription may cause serious harm.

Be sure to talk with family or caregivers as well, communicating the points listed above, so that they understand the risk factors of prescription opioid use in older adults.

The Texas PMP: Keeping Older Adults Safe From Prescription Opioid Misuse

The Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) is a valuable tool in protecting your patients, regardless of age. By providing controlled substance prescription histories for your patients, it informs prescribing practices to prevent prescription drug misuse and overdose.

Take a moment to learn how you can use the Texas PMP to protect your patients at txpmp.org.

Older Adults and OUD

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