Report: Drug-related deaths rising for Virginia seniors
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Drug-related deaths in Virginia for seniors increased 94% between 2014 to 2016 and 2019 to 2021, according to America’s Health Rankings.
The number of drug-related deaths in adults ages 65 and older nearly doubled from 3.6 to 7 per 100,000.
“Drug deaths really are impacting people of all ages, but seniors, I think, are often overlooked when it comes to medical screenings for drug use,” Chief Medical Officer Michael Stockman said. “Across the country, the drug overdose deaths amongst our seniors has been on the rise really for the past two decades.”
Stockman says many of these deaths are linked to opioid use, though some may also be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The COVID pandemic, which affected a lot of people, but seniors in particular, did create some social isolation, as well, which can contribute to depression and anxiety and then increasing alcohol use and or drug use,” Stockman said.
He says medical experts often don’t associated drug abuse with older patients.
“Medical professionals may not ask questions, assuming that seniors are not misusing any opioids or other drugs. But, you know, there may be some other things that are at play here,” Stockman said.
He says some patients can’t handle certain prescription drugs.
“Older people have bodies that are maybe a little bit more difficult to metabolize opioids due to changes in kidney function, liver function,” Stockman said. “We also know that exposure to medically-prescribed opioids for chronic conditions such as arthritis, cancer, increases with age.”
Stockman says it’s important for medical professionals to screen for drug use in all patients.
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