Pain Meds / Antidepressants in 65+ Rising Sharply and Lasting Longer According to a USA Today article,, the number of senior citizens getting narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medications under Medicare’s prescription drug program is climbing sharply, and those older patients are being put on the drugs for longer periods of time. From 2007-2012, the number of patients 65 and older getting Medicare prescriptions for powerful opioid pain medications rose more than 30% to upward of 8.5 million beneficiaries, the data show. Use of some of the most commonly abused painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, climbed more than 50%. And the supply of each narcotic provided to the average recipient grew about 15% to about three months. The number of seniors getting Medicare prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, such as alprazolam (also sold as Xanax), busipirone and lorazepam (also sold as Ativan), rose about 25% to more than 700,000. By 2012, the average patient got about five months’ worth ÛÒ about 10% more than in 2007. Obviously this carries considerable risks of abuse and dependence if their use is not closely supervised over longer periods. They also can contribute to confusion and physical injuries. Speaking to USA Today, Jane Ballantyne, anesthesiologist and pain medicine expert at the University of Washington Medical Center said: “The rise in such prescriptions reflects “old teaching” that led many physicians to over-prescribe the drugs, especially for long-term treatment, says . The newer consensus is that the drugs’ use should be much more limited, particularly in patients with a history of substance abuse or among groups, such as seniors, who are more vulnerable to side effects, she adds. “But it takes a lot of time and effort to turn the old teaching around.” After moving mom from Florida to North Carolina, we found a physician who is actually weaning her off some of her 14 or so prescriptions. In a fee for service world, fueled by aggressive pharmaceutical companies, it is hard to get people to change habits as Ballantyne mentioned. I found a physician who is. And I switched to him as well.