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.