Sunday, January 15, 2006

drug abuse

The abuse of drugs in the elderly is mainly in the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, often unknowingly. "Street drugs" are not generally a problem with the elderly. Some older people become excessively dependent upon hypnotic drugs to induce sleep or relieve tension. Such people often cite severe insomnia or pain as justification for the use of such drugs. Often patients will combine over-the-counter drugs with prescription medicines and experience adverse effects.
Symptoms of drug abuse include dizziness, confusion, disorientation, hypochondriasis (unjustified belief that one has a physical illness), insomnia, lack of energy, accident-proneness, incontinence (inability to control the urine flow), and lack of concentration. Often the person may request refills on prescriptions out of proportion to his or her needs. If this request is not granted, the individual may seek another doctor. Treatment should include patient and family education on interactions of their prescribed drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and alcohol. Psychotherapy or a drug abuse program may be useful. Care should be taken to make sure that the older person understands exactly how to take his or her prescribed medications and to be aware of any limitations with its use.
Reichel, W. M. Clinical Aspects of Aging. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Co., 1979. Steinberg, F. U. Care of the Geriatric Patient, 6th ed. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.


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