Faculty and Staff Research

Addressing the Impact of the Opioid Crisis on Middle-Aged and Older Adults in Northwest Ohio

The Wood County Committee on Aging (WCCOA) in Bowling Green, Ohio, with the Optimal Aging Institute (OAI) of Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is developing a comprehensive strategy to address opioid use and misuse among middle-aged and older adults in Northwest Ohio, with the goals of reducing opioid abuse, misuse, dependency, and opioid overdose deaths in these populations.

The WCCOA and the OAI will collaboratively work with the existing Wood County Opiate Task Force and the Northwest Ohio Opioid Addiction Treatment Planning Task Force, who have been successfully addressing the opioid epidemic in Northwest Ohio (with an emphasis on the general population).

The primary goal of this project is to develop and disseminate evidence-based opioid prevention education programs specifically for middle-aged and older adults throughout Northwest Ohio.

The CDC reported that in 2015 adults between the ages of 45-54 had the highest death rate from drug overdose (30 deaths per 100,000).

Research conducted by Dr. Nancy Orel (Executive Director of Research for the OAI, BGSU) and Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad (Associate Professor of Communication, BGSU) indicated several key facts concerning the impact of the opioid crisis on middle-aged and older adults:

  • Adults aged 50+ are the greatest consumers of prescription drugs and due to their increased rates of chronic pain, they are three times more likely to be prescribed opioids (Patel et al., 2013). One-in-three Medicare Part D beneficiaries received a prescription opioid in 2016, and approximately 500,000 beneficiaries received high amounts of opioids (U.S. Office of the Inspector General, 2017).
  • Between 2002 and 2016, prescription opioid misuse increased 66% for those aged 50-64 and more than doubled for those aged 65 and older (Schepis & McCabe, 2016).
  • Physicians and other health care practitioners may have inadvertently “created a culture of overprescribing” because they receive less education about opioid use and abuse among middle-aged and older adults (Brodwin, 2017).
  • Nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers among older adults has been associated with negative health outcomes including falls, hip fractures, traffic accidents (Buckeridge et al., 2010), confusion (Gold, 2017), and cardiac events (Vozoris et al., 2017).
  • The stigma related to drug addiction prevents many middle-aged and older adults from seeking treatment (Cochran et al., 2017).
  • Older adults on the traditional treatment for opioid addiction (e.g. methadone-maintenance-treatment) may become increasingly vulnerable (Cotton et al., 2017).
  • Opioid abuse and/or fatal opioid overdoses of adult children is the primary reason that individuals aged 45+ assume primary caregiving of their grandchildren (Pew Charitable Trust, 2016).
  • Despite the research that has documented opioid misuse amongst the general population, there is a dearth of research regarding opioid misuse amongst middle-aged and older adults (Cochran et al., 2017).
  • Opioid use and misuse educational programs specifically tailored for middle-aged and older adults have not been developed.

It is projected that as the baby bommer generation (e.g., those born between 1946 and 1964) reaches later adulthood, the incidence of all substance use disorders will increase with opioid use and misuse dramatically increasing (Cochran et al., 2017; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2017).

Drs. Orel and Magsamen-Conrad have recently completed an investigation of the extent to which the websites of the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) and the 12 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Ohio are highlighting the impact of the opioid crisis on middle-aged and older adults. This investigation revealed that only one AAA (Western Reserve) had information on opioids, however, this information was a brief article about how pain can be alleviated with prescription drugs. The eleven remaining AAAs and the ODA did not have any information available on their websites using the search terms opioids, opioid use, opioid misuse, or prescription drug misuse, but they did provide a wealth of information on programs that would assist older adults in obtaining their prescription drugs.

It is imperative that greater attention be given to developing/providing information on the impact of the opioid epidemic on middle-aged and older adults.

It is the goal of the WCCOA and the OAI of BGSU to address the impact of the opioid crisis on middle-aged and older adults. This project will make a meaningful impact on citizens of Northwest Ohio and will start the national conversation on the impact of the opioid crisis on middle-aged and older adults.


Brent Archer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Position: Assistant Professor, Dept. of Communication Sciences and Disorders, HHS
Phone: 419-372-7165
Email: barcher@bgsu.edu


Susan L. Brown, Ph.D

Position: Professor and Chair of Sociology, A&S
Phone: 419-372-9521
Email: brownsl@bgsu.edu


Lynn A. Darby, Ph.D.

Position: Professor, School of Human Movement and Leisure Studies, EDHD
Phone: 419-372-6903
Email: ldarby@bgsu.edu

Carrie Hamady

Carrie Hamady, MS, RD, LD

Position: Instructor/Coordinator, Undergraduate Dietetics Program
Dept. of Public & Allied Health, HHS
Phone: 419-372-0290
Email: carrieh@bgsu.edu

Laura Landry-Meyer

Laura Landry-Meyer, Ph.D., CFLE

Position: Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies, School of Family and Consumer Sciences, EDHD
Phone: 419-372-7848
Email: landrym@bgsu.edu


HeeSoon Lee, Ph.D.

Position: Associate Professor of Social Work, Dept. of Human Services, HHS
Phone: 419-372-9538
Email: leeh@bgsu.edu


I-Fen Lin, Ph.D.

Position: Professor of Sociology
Phone: 419-372-8517
Email: ifenlin@bgsu.edu

Mary-Jon Ludy

Mary-Jon Ludy, Ph.D., R.D., FAND

Position: Associate Professor, Dept. of Public & Allied Health, HHS
Phone: 419-372-6461
Email: mludy@bgsu.edu


Kate Magsamen-Conrad, Ph.D.

Position: Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication, School of Media and Communication
Phone: 419-372-9544
Email: kmagsam@bgsu.edu
Address: 301 Kuhlin Center


Wendy Diane Manning, Ph.D.

Position: Distinguished Professor of Sociology, A&S
Director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research; Co-Director for the National Center for Family & Marriage Research
Phone: 419-372-2850
Email: wmannin@bgsu.edu


Amy Morgan, Ph.D.

Position: Professor / Associate Dean for Administration, EDHD
Phone: 419-372-3587
Email: amorgan@bgsu.edu


Deborah O’Neil, Ph.D.

Position: Associate Professor and Director, Master of Organization Development Program, Dept. of Management, CBA
Phone: 419-372-5222
Email: oneild@bgsu.edu


Nany Orel, PH.D, LPC

Position: Executive Director of Research, Optimal Aging Institute
Email: norel@bgsu.edu


Charlie D. Stelle, Ph.D.

Position: Associate Professor, Gerontology Program, HHS
Phone: 419-372-8304
Email: cstelle@bgsu.edu


Wendy K. Watson, Ph.D.

Position: Associate Professor and Coordinator of Gerontology Program, HHS
Phone: 419-372-1057
Email: wwatson@bgsu.edu