One would have thought the opioid crisis would serve as a lesson for conventional medicine and its pharmaceutical allies. Overprescribe a class of drugs, and you’ll likely create a public health crisis.
Well, sadly – it hasn't.
In a series of papers, researchers report physicians are routinely prescribing three or more psychiatric drugs to their elderly patients and are doing so at a rate that has doubled in the last ten years.[i] Physicians are also routinely prescribing antipsychotics at an alarming rate.[ii]
Disturbing – right?
Which drugs are physicians most often prescribing to seniors? Sleep aids, tranquilizers, and anti-depressants are the most common—three or more at a time.
What’s more – researchers found that 46% of the patients receiving these drugs had not been diagnosed with any mood, chronic pain, or sleep disorders.
Why does this dangerous practice, a practice called poly-pharmacy, matter?
First – the polypharmacy approach often fails to consider the likelihood that these elderly patients also take other prescription medications for pain, hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, and more. Each of those drugs produces a number of troubling side effects on its own.
Now add those drugs together with psychiatric medications, and you have a potentially toxic cocktail that, in most cases, will markedly debilitate an older person.
Sadly, even taken alone, each of the psychiatric drugs in question has the potential to cause confusion, memory issues, slurred speech, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, double vision, loss of coordination, and falls in elderly patients.
Add the issues listed above to the addictive quality of many psychiatric drugs, and one has the makings of another public health crisis.
The real question is why the medical community allows this practice to persist and expand.
If you suddenly notice that an older friend or family member is showing abrupt changes in behavior or evidence of the symptoms listed above – check to see if they have visited their primary care physician recently and whether that primary care physician has added a new drug or drugs to your loved one’s daily routine.
If they have – it may be time to step in and ask the physician in question some hard questions.
Remember – for virtually every health problem, emotional or physical – there are a variety of treatment options – many that are drugless. When it comes to elderly patients – those can be the better choice.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and need help in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, or Indiana, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help. And we come to you, regardless of where you live. Our unique in-home treatment model of care gives clients a significantly better chance of recovery compared to traditional inpatient rehab care. Please get in touch with one of our Recovery Specialists to learn more.