The rate of prescription drug abuse has gradually decreased from 1996 to 2012, but a study discovered a rising trend in a unique demographic: the elderly.
Researchers from New York University revealed in a news article that people in their 50s have a high tendency to abuse opioids and narcotic painkillers. Study lead author Dr. Benjamin Han explained how their study on monitoring opioid treatment programs have led to the startling discovery. He mentioned a “pronounced age trend in those utilizing opioid treatment programs from 1996 to 2012, with adults aged 50 and older becoming the majority treatment population.” In 1996, adults between 50 and 59 years old represented 8 percent of the patients treated for painkiller abuse. However, the number has since ballooned to almost 36 percent by 2012. In contrast, people younger than 40 years of age represented 56 percent of substance abuse patients in 1996, but decreased to only 20 percent after 16 years.
“These increases are especially striking, considering there was about a 7.6 percent decrease in the total patient population over that period of time, and suggests that we are facing a never before seen epidemic of older adults with substance use disorders and increasing numbers of older adults in substance abuse treatment,” Han stated.
The researchers believe that their study could be used to address the needs of the above-50 demographic, so that they can follow the decreasing rate of painkiller abuse across other age groups.