Drug addiction over 60: Is it too late?

When we think of drugs, we think of young people consuming cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy in the party scene.

When we think of drug addiction we think of homeless youths who are gaunt and at this point in time have no future and a damaged past.

When we think of drug overdose we think of stupid young people who threw their lives away by partying too hard.

But the reality about drug addiction in Australia is very different.

The Victorian Coroners court released a statement at a medical conference last week saying that prescription drugs were involved in 82 per cent of overdose deaths in Victoria in 2014.

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In 2006, a study was conducted that found 87 per cent of women and 83 per cent of men take at least one prescription medicine every day. Over 60s are the largest and fastest growing demographic of any in Australia and right now there is a big problem in the amount of prescription drugs we take and what that is doing to us.

The most common prescription drugs in Australia are analgesics and antidepressants, which make up 21.6 per cent of all prescription drugs followed by cardiovascular medications, which make up 19.8 per cent. These are all drug categories that are associated with the ailments and medical conditions that ageing brings.

So are over 60s at risk of a drug overdose without realising it? Is our generation one that should be receiving more education than the others as the largest users of prescription medication?

I personally have experienced first hand drug addiction in the over 60s. My grandfather had a serious operation some time ago that left damage in his nervous system. He almost constantly felt pain radiating from his right shoulder and down his arm. It kept him awake at night and sometimes he would even cry – something I’d never before seen him do.

At one stage his doctor prescribed morphine and continued to increase his dose until he was able to go about living a regular life again. Only it began to become a highly dependable relationship.

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His doctor tried to cease the drug and replace it with healthier ones and he became aggressive, violent and would drink obscene volumes of scotch to numb the pain. He then went so far as to attempting to obtain and then self medicate using morphine while he was in hospital claiming that he’d rather be dead than without it.

It was terrifying to watch and the reality is that it could happen to anyone. Although some drugs are more sinister than others, they’re all substances that aren’t natural to our bodies and in one way or another, we grow to depend on them.

So today let’s have a chat about our own prescription medication. Do you take any? Have you seen addiction take place in over 60s? Is it possible to live without prescription drugs? Share your thoughts in the comments below…