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FIRST-PERSON: There’s a pill for that

DORA, Ala. (BP) — Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see references to witchcraft — Galatians 5:20 and Revelation 21:8 are a couple of examples.

The shock for most folks is to learn that the word witchcraft (or sorcery in some translations) is actually the Greek word pharmakeia. Sound a little familiar? That’s because it’s the same word from which we get our word pharmacy.

Why bring this up? Because nowadays, there seems to be a pill for everything and plenty of encouragement to try them all. And because of this attitude of “a pill will fix it,” senior adults, including well-intended Christians, are being overmedicated with painkillers, antidepressants and other mind- and behavior-altering drugs at an increasing rate. We think of drug addiction as a problem among young people. While most senior adults aren’t out on the street trying to get a hit from their local dealer, what they are doing is getting a slew of prescription drugs from their doctors.

Here are just a few eye-opening statistics:

— DrugAbuse.gov says that while people age 65 and older make up only 13 percent of the population, they account for more than one-third of the money spent on outpatient prescriptions in the U.S. Meanwhile, AgingCare.com notes that 40 percent of all the prescription medications sold in the U.S. is for senior adults.

— According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, up to 17 percent of senior adults abuse prescription drugs.

— A USAToday.com article quotes Betty Van Amburgh, a 68-year-old who had become drug-addicted, as saying, “The doctors just kept prescribing them. … I was a zombie.” Betty went through several back surgeries 20 years earlier and, all these years later, doctors were still keeping her stocked with painkillers.

The same article went on to warn that older patients are being loaded with opioid painkillers and benzodiazepine anxiety drugs, with a 20 percent increase in opioid prescriptions in the last five years — more than double the growth rate of the senior adult population.

So what are we to make of all this?

If you need a pill to go to sleep, a pill to wake up and a pill to keep you going in between, you may be overmedicating, or if you’re experiencing fuzzy thinking and difficulty keeping your balance. I realize that certain conditions require medication on a regular basis, so please don’t think I’m being critical of those who truly need these drugs. My concern is for those who have been prescribed so much for so long that they’re simply not sure what they need or what they can do without.

Many seniors experience falls and dementia-like symptoms simply from being overmedicated. It’s so important to keep all your doctors aware of all your medications. Regardless of how many doctors you may have, make sure each of them is provided with a full list of your medications. One doctor unaware of the medication being prescribed by another doctor could easily put you on a drug that’s dangerous or even life-threatening when combined with certain other medications.

If you’re a caregiver, relative or close friend of a senior adult you believe is being overmedicated, encourage or even assist him in writing down all his medications — including over-the-counter meds and nutritional supplements his doctor may not be aware of — and scheduling an appointment to have his medications reevaluated and, hopefully, some dosages reduced or eliminated.

And, certainly, let’s pray for those who are dealing with this terrible problem — for those who are overmedicated and have become drug-addicted and for those who love them and are trying to help, remembering the instruction of Scripture: “Therefore be clear-minded and sober, so you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7b, Berean Study Bible).

    About the Author

  • Judy Bates