The Quiet Epidemic of Senior Drug Abuse

Hispanic woman looking at prescription in bathroom

(DGIwire) — When we think about drug addiction, seniors are certainly not the first age group that comes to mind. But here’s the reality: one quarter of the prescription drugs sold in the United States are used by the elderly, often for problems such as chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety, according to According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, as many as 17 percent of adults age 60 and over abuse prescription drugs. Narcotic painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquilizers are common medications of abuse.

Unfortunately, when drugs come from a doctor’s prescription pad, misuse is harder to identify. That’s because many older adults take them for non-medical reasons even though we often assume these drugs are only being used to treat legitimate medical conditions. Over time, however, they develop a tolerance to the drug. Achieving the same effect requires more and more of the drug.

Meanwhile, the social and physical changes that accompany aging might well increase vulnerability to drug-related problems. The loss of loved ones, juggling of multiple roles, and retirement or other alterations in employment and income may cause some older people to use illicit drugs as self-medication for anxiety or depression.

Slowing metabolism can also increase sensitivity to the effects of drugs. Furthermore, the effects of drugs of abuse in older adults might be influenced by age-related health conditions and medications—contingencies that are more problematic when patients hide their drug abuse. Regardless of the age group or cause, however, when it comes to scourge of drug addiction, few understand the issue better than BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI), a Raleigh, NC-based specialty pharmaceutical company focused on pain management and addiction medicine. BDSI knows that addiction is a complicated medical problem requiring long-term treatment and care.

In response to this escalating issue, BDSI has developed BUNAVAIL™ (buprenorphine and naloxone buccal film), which uses BDSI’s proprietary BioErodible MucoAdhesive (BEMA®) delivery technology for the maintenance treatment of opioid dependence. In June, BDSI received approval of its New Drug Application for BUNAVAIL from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. BDSI expects to launch BUNAVAIL late in the third quarter of 2014.

Dr. Mark A. Sirgo, President and Chief Executive Officer of BDSI, says, “America’s aging baby boomers are bringing into their golden years an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the scope of which has yet to be fully recognized. BDSI is committed to developing products such as BUNAVAIL for opioid dependence and BEMA Buprenorphine for chronic pain to help play a role in stemming the growth of prescription drug addiction.”

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