Older Adults and the Opioid Crisis: Implications, Treatments, and Support

September 8, 2017 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​Medicare patients have some of the highest and fastest growing rates of opioid use disorder, according to a report published by Grantmakers in Aging on the effects of the opioid crisis on older adults, specifically those in rural communities where often fewer resources are available for treatment. The report explains that opioid-related hospitalizations of Medicare patients are increasing by 10% per year. The authors note that while people ages 45 to 55 years are currently the most heavily affected individuals, those same individuals will likely continue to suffer from opioid use disorder into their 60s and 70s if treatment options and national initiatives for access to rehabilitation programs are not successful. According to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, “Baby Boomers' histories of illicit drug use, and their relatively tolerant attitudes toward it, along with the fact that they now comprise nearly 30 percent of the nation's population, have raised the stakes on understanding and responding effectively to drug abuse among older adults.

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