People in their late youth and early middle age prescribed more opioids than seniors, finds study

People in their late youth and early middle age prescribed more opioids than seniors, finds study

For many, the old age is synonymous with pain. Be it a nagging backache, knee ache or a slip disc; as the body wears down, pain becomes evident. Going by the trend, the best way to cope with pain – chronic or acute, irrespective of age – is prescription painkillers. There have been a number of instances where the doctor was unwilling, but was forced to accede to the patient’s request for opiate painkillers.

Surprisingly, according to a 2017 study, published in the journal Pain Medicine, it is not the elderly but the people in their late youth and midlife transition – those aged between 35 and 49 years – who are more likely to receive pain medications for chronic pain not related to cancer. According to lead researcher Maureen Knell, from the University of Missouri-Kansas, the probable cause for this could be the assumption that opioids are safer for middle-aged patients compared to the elderly. Other interesting observations of the study were:

  • Primary care doctors had higher incidence of prescribing opiates than specialty doctors. This held true more resoundingly, if the patient had been seeing the same doctor since long.
  • Patients who were on public insurance were more likely to be prescribed opioids than those on private insurance.

Publicly insured likely to get more opioids

Other studies also confirmed that those on public insurance were more likely to be prescribed painkillers. Co-author Rafia Rasu said that this happened because such plans majorly covered Americans who were either in the low-income group or were physically or mentally challenged. This prompted the physicians to prescribe opioids rather than try alternatives like physiotherapy, which proved to be expensive.

Further, physicians generally did not follow the prescription guidelines. Before prescribing any opioid, they should ascertain if the patient had tried another “first-line therapy.”

Culture also plays a role

Another observation made by the researcher pair was that rates of prescribing opioids were higher in the south of the country. This was akin to the higher rates of poverty and chronic conditions observed there. However, they also revealed that Hispanics were 30 percent less likely to be prescribed opioids. The researchers attributed this to the language barrier. The doctors were unsure whether they have understood the patients and vice versa. Another reason that the researchers quoted for this was the relatively higher tolerance levels of the Hispanic population or “how the culture deals with pain.”

The researchers are now working on an update as the study was based on data available from the year 2000 to 2007. “It would be interesting to see what has happened since then,” said Rasu.

Disadvantages of prescription drug use

The most commonly abused prescription drugs include opiate painkillers, stimulants and depressants.   While opioid abuse among the elderly and its ill effects on their mental and behavioral health have been studied in detail, not much has been written about how opioid use and abuse affect those in their late youth and early middle age.

Irrespective of age, the risks of prescription drugs remain the same – addiction, dependency and abuse. These also cause a host of other physiological problems, even with first time use:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Increase in hostility towards others
  • Paranoia
  • Delusion
  • HIV/AIDS and hepatitis infection
  • Skin ageing
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental disorders

Dealing with addiction to prescription pills

A lot of people feel that prescription pills are safer compared to alcohol or illegal drugs. However, opioids are also as addictive. If you or your loved one is battling an addiction to prescription drugs, then it is important to seek help from one of the credible prescription drug rehab centers in Florida. The Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline assists in accessing the finest drug treatment centers in Florida that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-292-3211 or chat online to know more about the best prescription drug rehab in Florida.