Area Agency on Aging effort targets prescription drug misuse

To help combat the increasing risk of medication misuse among older adults, the Area Agency on Aging, in partnership with and through a grant from Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, is launching a postcard-driven educational campaign about the proper use of medications.

The campaign, “Use Your Head About Taking Your Meds,” will include a series of six direct mail postcards that will continue until the end of June to more than 8,500 households and through email and social media. Print and radio advertising will complement the outreach.

A National Institutes of Health study of 3,005 individuals ages 57 to 85 found that 37 percent of men and 36 percent of women used at least five prescription medications concurrently.

“Prescription medication overuse and misuse is a serious, growing and potentially deadly trend,” said Area Agency on Aging President and CEO Mary Lynn Kasunic.

“This campaign is designed to provide consistent communication with that targeted population and provide easy-to-read and important tips to create awareness of the problem and steps to prevent misuse.”

“Older adults are likely to experience more problems with relatively small amounts of medications because of increased medication sensitivity and slower metabolism and elimination,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Older adults also are at higher risk for medication misuse than the general population because of their elevated rates of pain, sleep disorders and insomnia and anxiety.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that prescription misuse or abuse is increasing among people in their 50s and that, though people 65 and over may comprise only 13 percent of the population, they account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States.

According to a report in Prevention Tactics, “prescription drug abuse is present in 12 to 15 percent of elderly individuals who seek medical attention.” A document from the Johns Hopkins Medical School notes that the number of Americans over age 50 who are misusing medications, often inadvertently, is projected to rise to 2.7 million in 2020, a 190 percent increase from the 2001 figure of 910,000.

“With a rapidly aging population, we are heading into a very serious crisis,” Ms. Kasunic said. “We must take every step we can to control it.”

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