Mary Shedden, of The Tampa Tribune, delves into the dangers of prescription medicines in older people, whose bodies may be weaker and process medications differently than younger people.
She tells the story of a 62-year-old woman who says she was diligent about controlling her use of oxycodone following back surgery. Despite her efforts, she was found nearly comatose and, after a visit to the emergency room, had to spend several days detoxifying because of a buildup of prescription medications in her body. “As [Susan] Schubert’s body was getting older, its physiological ability to efficiently process medications was weakening and changing.”
Aging bodies can become more sensitive to the effects of drugs and some drugs can build up in the body.
Designed to heal, prescription drugs also carry certain risks, depending on a person’s health, weight, gender and, yes, age. Seniors accustomed to taking a drug for years may think changes are unnecessary, but human aging and an increased tolerance to a medication can alter its effect.
As Shedden explains, “drugs known to make a person drowsy can affect focus, balance and cognitive abilities already weakened by age.”
Shedden’s story, published before yesterday’s report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality about the increase in medication- and drug-related hospital visits in people older than 45, is an interesting look into some challenges of geriatric pain management and drug dependence in an aging population.