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Studies Show Older Adults Experience Opioid Misuse at Increasing Rate

It may not come up in everyday conversation, but older adults aren’t immune to the risks of substance abuse — especially when it comes to extremely addictive substances like opioids.

In fact, Time magazine shared that opioid overdose deaths for Americans age 55 and over rose tenfold over the past two decades, from around 500 deaths in 1999 to nearly 10,300 deaths in 2019. 

While most opioid-involved overdose deaths in recent years have been tied to the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, experts believe there are a number of factors contributing to the older adult group’s increasing opioid misuse. These include reasons such as chronic pain conditions being more common among the elderly, poor screening measures for recognizing a substance use disorder in this population, as well as aging’s effect on the body’s ability to metabolize opioids efficiently.

Additionally, Maryann Mason, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of a JAMA Network Open study released in January 2022 shared that ageism can also make it tough for health care providers to believe these older adults are experiencing substance abuse.

Finding a solution

Mason is hopeful that future opioid-related death rates in this older adult population could be reduced with additional precautions in place like increased screening methods, training support staff to recognize the signs of misuse, and ensuring treatment solutions are easier for older adults to access.     

At Cordant, we aim to support clinicians and patients in overcoming these challenges, particularly as they relate to reducing the stigma of getting treatment and making medications used for substance use disorder treatment easy to access for older adults with mobility issues.

Our Cordant Pharmacy Solutions™ managed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) pharmacy program supports clinicians who treat patients with opioid use disorder by delivering the patients’ medication to them during an already-scheduled treatment visit — or even directly to the patient’s home for providers with telemedicine programs — thus reducing stigma and ensuring easy access to hard-to-find treatment medications like buprenorphine. We can also deliver long-acting injectable medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder for in-office administration to clinics in all states Cordant serves.

Read more about Cordant’s managed MAT pharmacy program here.