What medicines increase the risk for abuse?
A person can abuse any type of prescription drug, but elderly adults commonly take two types of medicines that have a high potential for addiction:
- Opioids are prescription drugs used to control pain. They include medicines such as oxycodone (OxyContin), oxycodone combined with acetaminophen (Percocet), and hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen (Vicodin). A person can become addicted to opioids if he or she takes an opioid for a long period of time or if he or she takes too much of the opioid.
- Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia. They include medicines such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and lorazepam (Ativan). A person can become addicted to and feel like he or she needs more of these drugs if the medicine is taken for a long period of time.
Other prescription drugs used to control pain or treat sleeping problems may also cause addiction.
How do I tell if an older adult might be abusing prescription drugs?
If you care for or spend time with an older adult, pay attention to his or her medicines and behavior. A person who is addicted to a prescription drug may:
- Get a prescription for the same medicine from two different doctors
- Fill a prescription for the same medicine at two different pharmacies
- Take more of a prescription medicine than they used to or take more than is instructed on the label
- Take the medicine at different times or more often than is instructed on the label
- Have behavior changes, such as becoming more withdrawn or angry
- Often think or talk about a medicine
- Be afraid to go without taking a medicine
- Be uncomfortable or defensive when you ask about the medicine
- Make excuses for why they need a medicine
- Store "extra” pills in their purse or in their pocket
- Sneek or hide medicine
- Have been treated for alcohol, drug, or prescription drug abuse in the past
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff