While the opioid epidemic has taken its greatest toll on younger people, a study by the U.S. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project shows that the epidemic has increasingly affected the elderly Medicare population as well. This study found that Medicare beneficiaries account for the largest proportional rise in opioid overuse-related hospitals stays in the last decade.

Even without overuse, seniors are particularly vulnerable to the effects of opioids. A white paper by the National Safety Council indicates the use of opioids in the elderly is very risky citing a greater risk of cardiovascular events, falls, fractures, hospitalization for an adverse drug event, and even mortality. In a Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study of people age 65+ suffering from arthritis, those taking opioids for the pain were more likely to experience a fracture than those who used another form of painkiller.

The Great Plains Quality Innovation Network continues to partner with providers, pharmacists and stakeholders in our region to address the opioid epidemic within our local population. A Medication Safety Learning and Action Network webinar series offers education from a multi-faceted approach for healthcare professionals and community members as they continue to face issues across our communities. Visit the “upcoming events” and “past events” sections of our website to access educational events, such as Take-Back Programs of Unused Medication, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Managing Chronic Pain Naturally, and more.