New research focuses on impacts of the opioid crisis among older adults, what that means locally

New research focuses on impacts of the opioid crisis among older adults, what that means locally

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - New research is focusing on the impacts of the opioid crisis among older adults.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found this year that opioid-related emergency visits increased by over 70 percent for those 65 and older from 2010-2015.

The same study found that for the same age group and time period, opioid-related hospitalizations increased by just over 30 percent.

With prescription opioids comes a risk of addiction.

That's according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which says opioid overdose, which is identified by slow breath, can cause several side effects and/or death.

But often overlooked is the impact of the opioid crisis in older adults.

According to the CDC, opioid risks are greater in the 65 and older age group.

And according to health experts at Mankato Clinic, like Clinical Pharmacist Nathan Evers, those in that age group who are taking multiple medications can also face greater risks.

“So if you’re on multiple medications that cause sedation and then you’re on an opioid as well, you’re going to be more likely to have falls and that sort of thing, too," Evers said.

Evers said the older age group might also not handle opioid side effects as well.

Over at Minnesota State University, Mankato, work is being done to increase access to resources and support for rural communities in the state, according to Assistant Professor Jennifer Londgren, who works in the Alcohol and Drug Studies department.

“What we’re really finding is that rural elderly citizens are specifically being heavily impacted by this, and about half of people who overdose in rural communities are aged 65 and older," Londgren said.

Londgren said the university is trying to provide more trainings in southern Minnesota, such as trainings on how to properly use Narcan, which experts say can help in an overdose situation.

Evers said Mankato Clinic is also involved in an opioid work group.

“We’re kind of continually evaluating our prescribing habits, making sure that we’re staying in line with the state guidelines in terms of prescribing acute and chronic therapies," he said.

Londgren also said it’s important for caregivers to stay in the loop.

“So it’s really important for caregivers to understand just the other types of medications their loved one might be on, how alcohol might play a role and then just really being wise about why opioids are being prescribed," she said.

Londgren added that misuse among the elderly is said to double by 2020.

Mankato Clinic also has information about resources like the South Central Crisis Center (507-344-0621) for those seeking help.

Other resources include the Regional Crisis Line and the Crisis Mobile Team (877-399-3040) and the Narcotics Anonymous 24-hour helpline (877-767-7676.)

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