In 2016, there were 530 emergency room visits by Georgians aged 55 or older for opioid related overdoses. Over 800 Georgians aged 55 or older were hospitalized inpatient for opioid related overdoses.

If you suspect you or the senior under your care is at risk

If you are over 55 or notice that an adult in your life over 55 years of age has begun losing interest, has become withdrawn, depressed, hostile or fatigued for no reason, you may think it might be part of the aging process. But many of these behaviors can also be signs of drug related problems.

Here are some signs that could mean a person over 55 is at risk:

  • Appearing over sedated, disoriented or impaired
  • Poor balance or unsteady gait
  • Requesting early refills
  • Reporting that their medications have been lost or stolen (particularly if this occurs more than once)
  • Poor hygiene or disheveled appearance
  • Appetite changes
  • Mood swings or major personality changes
  • Increased isolation
  • Demanding narcotic drugs at visit to the doctor
  • Apparent doctor shopping

What seniors and caregivers can do

  • Understand the risk factors for abuse of painkillers: improper use, depression, anxiety
  • Talk with the seniors under your care about the risks and dangers of prescription painkillers, especially opioids and narcotics
  • Talk with the seniors under your care about the risks of using prescription drugs and drinking alcohol, and the risks of combining other addictive prescription drugs with prescribed painkillers (include link to Other Prescription Drugs page)
  • Ensure that seniors are not sharing their medications with other family, friends or acquaintances.  
  • Encourage seniors to ask healthcare professionals for non-narcotic painkiller alternatives if prescribed
  • Let seniors know that you will stand by them and offer support
  • Store any prescription painkillers in a locked storage box, drawer or cabinet to limit access
  • Do not keep unused or unwanted prescriptions; dispose of them (include link to Dispose page)
  • Ask about senior caregiver/care facility policies on prescription drug policies
  • Watch for signs of addiction