Thieves, con artists and other criminals often target the most vulnerable people for their scams, heartlessly preying on their victims. While most of us have heard of credit card fraud rings posing as charities and targeting the elderly, a recent release from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) explains that international drug dealers have also been targeting the elderly in drug smuggling operations.
“Those who target vulnerable populations, to include our elderly, are among the worst kinds of criminals. Heart breaking does not begin to describe some of these case details,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “It is the job of law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice, but it is all of our jobs to teach our own loved ones to be vigilant against these kinds of schemes.”
These unlikely and unaware drug mules are reportedly lured through online begging, solicitous phone calls and other means, proving them free trips overseas and giving them fake items to travel with that are actually filled with drugs. Nearly 150 of these unsuspecting carriers have been arrested recently, with more than two dozen of them still being held in custody overseas.
Drugs being transported include heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, with several others likely. Unfortunately, if this many are caught, it probably means that many more than that have not.
Although it is good to hear that even schemes like this are being uncovered, it just continues to show what a serious drug problem we have, not just in the United States, but may other countries as well. It means we must increase our prevention and treatment efforts so that fewer people start taking the drugs and more of those who have are able to successfully recover.
The news is flooded with incidents and warnings about prescription drug abuse amongst teenagers and young adults, but the toll that the drugs are taking on the elderly is not often reported. The elderly population experiences many different varieties of pain and recuperation from surgical procedures that warrant the use of narcotic painkillers. However, despite these acceptable reasons for prescription narcotics, many physicians are not adequately explaining the side effects and potential for abuse that come along with medications like OxyContin or Percocet.
“More Americans overdose on prescription painkillers than on heroin and cocaine combined. Yet, these medications are marketed as the Cadillac option for treating pain. I doctors and their patients understand the risks and side effects, they can discuss safer, more effective options,” explained Deborah A.P. Hersman, President and CEO of the National Safety Council.
The Council recently released a paper discussing the dangers of prescription painkillers and their side effects compared to over-the-counter drugs. They found that older adults are four times more likely to have broken a bone while under the influence of narcotic painkillers. Additionally, 68 percent of older adults who take prescription painkillers are more likely to be hospitalized due to their use of the medications, and they are 87 percent more likely to die from taking them.
One of the arguments for prescribing narcotic painkillers to the elderly is that these pills are believed to be easier and safer on the digestive system than over the counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. However, the National Safety Council found that adults who are prescribed pills like Vicodin or Opana are just as likely to experience stomach problems.
While it is clear that adults who are over the age of 65 are more likely to experience health problems and issues that bring on pain, experts urge doctors to explore all methods of relief rather than relying on narcotic painkillers to take care of the issues. Patients who change their diet, exercise more and explore physical or occupational therapies may be able to get over their injuries and pain faster and without the physical dangers of those that rely on narcotic painkillers.
One section of the population that is often overlooked when it comes to the prescription drug abuse epidemic is the group of older Americans. There are several contributing factors that have made them more susceptible to this, and it is often harder to detect among the elderly.
A recent article draws into light the concerns among healthcare professionals in North Dakota about prescription drug addiction among older people in the United States.
Although most of the focus on prescription drug abuse has been on teenagers and younger adults, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) states that the number of people 55 and older admitted to the emergency room due to nonmedical use of prescription drugs more than tripled between 2004 and 2011.
Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that close to 30 percent of people between ages 57 to 85 use at least five prescriptions. While some of these prescriptions may be life-saving medications, there are often drugs such as painkillers or anti-anxiety pills mixed in. There is also an increased risk of danger when multiple drugs are mixed together, as these drug interactions can create a new level of toxicity and a plethora of potential side effects.
Some signs to watch out for may include memory loss or confusion, which can be separated out from early forms of Alzheimer’s by a primary care physician conducting tests. Other signs include being overly concerned about the amount of medications, when they’re taken and whether or not they’re going to run out.
Due to the possibility of multiple health conditions and medications, not all treatment facilities are equipped to deal with older adults. The detoxification procedures can be more complex and take specialist doctors who are familiar with the situation.
If you know of someone who may need help with prescription drug abuse, contact us today for a free consultation.