Older adults with functional deficiencies related to the use / abuse of prescription drugs

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 22% of older adults in the United States suffer from functional impairment, defined as difficulty performing daily activities, such as bathing or dressing, or concentration problems, or decision making affected by physical, mental or emotional conditions.

In a new study published in the May 20, 2021 online edition American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that functional deficiencies among adults age 50 and older are associated with an increased risk of medical cannabis use; and prescription and misuse of opioids and prescription tranquilizers / sedatives.

“Our study implies that there may be a link between functional deficiencies and the use and misuse of these prescribed drugs. It is important to recognize that any psychoactive substance can be risky for this vulnerable population,” said Benjamin Han , MD, lead author of the study and clinician-researcher in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care, UC San Diego Department of Medicine.

“Lots of use these substances due to , insomnia or anxiety: conditions that can affect daily functioning. These symptoms can be difficult to manage, especially in the context of multiple chronic conditions and other prescribed medications. “

Joseph Palamar, Ph.D., lead author of the study and drug epidemiologist and associate professor at Grossman School of Medicine at New York University, said, “It’s important to recognize that prescription opioids and benzodiazepines can being risky among these demographic effects can increase the chances of falls and overuse can lead to overdose or even addiction. “

The study analyzed data from participants aged 50 and over in the 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Through a process of computer-assisted interviews, participants were asked about the use of prescription cannabis and opioids and tranquilizers / sedatives over the past year, as well as the presence of any functional impairment.

Those who reported cannabis use were asked if a doctor had recommended it, and those who reported opioid or tranquilizer / sedative use were asked about the misuse, which is defined. such as the use of prescription drugs in any way not directed by a physician, including over-the-counter use or use. in quantities greater than or greater than those prescribed.

The study found that adults over the age of 50 who reported medical cannabis use, prescription and misuse of prescription opioids, or prescription and misuse sedatives / sedatives were more likely to report impairment.

“Our findings suggest that the symptoms of this patient population are not always fully addressed or that something else is happening, such as a substance use disorder or a mental health problem such as depression and anxiety.” said Han. “As health care providers, we need to look more closely at chronic symptoms in older patients with functional impairments. Managing these conditions often requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

Palamar said more research is needed to identify and minimize the risks of psychoactive substance use in this population and to more fully elucidate the role of cannabis.

“Cannabis can have benefits for this population, but we need to ensure that the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. It’s great if cannabis can lessen your grandmother’s anxiety, but not if it’s already to fall, ”Palamar said.

Han said patients should work closely with their own develop appropriate treatment plans with realistic expectations.

“It is also vital to communicate the risks of medications to older adults with functional disabilities and the importance of balancing those risks with the potential benefits,” Han said.


A younger age at first drug use is related to a faster transition to substance use disorder


More information:
Benjamin H. Han et al, Cannabis use and prescription drugs among older adults with functional impairment, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.amepre.2021.01.042

Citation: Older adults with functional deficiencies related to the use / misuse of prescription drugs (2021, May 20), recovered on May 20, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-older -adults-functional-impairments-linked.html

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