Surprising List of Medications Cause Majority of Senior Overdoses


New research from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that seniors are more prone to be hospitalized because of their blood thinners or insulin shots than they are to be harmed by more risky medications like painkillers.

CDC doctors recently discovered that four common drugs—blood thinners, insulin, antiplatelet drugs, and oral diabetes medications—were responsible for 67% of drug-related hospitalizations among people aged 65 and older.

By contrast, only 8% of drug-related hospitalizations were found to have been caused by drugs in the "high-risk" category.

And therein lies the problem—risky drugs are not given to seniors nearly as often as blood thinners and insulin. Diabetes and heart disease reign supreme as two of the biggest health problems for elderly people, and many seniors need medication to manage them.

Also, older people generally take more prescription drugs, increasing their risk for overdose and adverse reaction. According to the CDC, people 65 and older have double the risk of having to go to the emergency room because of reactions to drugs.

The study authors state that better prescription management is the key to reducing the number of drug-related hospitalizations. The CDC offers a few tips to help the elderly handle their medications more effectively:

  • Maintain an up to date list of all your medications and dosages
  • Use medications as prescribed and directed by your doctor
  • If you are confused about a medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist
  • Be vigilant with prescribed blood tests
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Don't always rely on the doctor to tell you everything you need to know about a particular drug. My mother's doctor prescribed Zyprexa for my mother - despite FDA warnings that within a 30-day window this drug is over 3 times as likely to cause serious health problems, even death by stroke if given to elderly dementia patients, not to mention repeated studies show that it's not even effective. If I had done my research thoroughly and earlier, my mother would still be here. I relied on a doctor who met with me and failed to mention the deadly side effects. When she died, he didn't even acknowledge her death. A few weeks later, he sent her a bill. Good old Dr. Kill-and-Bill.
I suspect that the stats the CDC collects are the tip of the iceberg. Those are the cases that wind up in an ER. How many more people (not just seniors) suffer ill effects and less than optimal health because they are not taking their medications as directed or they are taking conflicting drugs (ordered by different doctors) or they are taking drugs ordered by a doctor who thinks seniors are just shriveled up adults (and children are just small adults) and isn't up on how drugs can effect the elderly differently. (Hooray for geriatricians, but with the exploding elderly population there aren't enough to go around.)

I don't know the answer, but I see this as a huge problem. And the drugs in the top 4 are a surprise.
Karen's story sounds familiar. I had traumatic experiences with my own mother taking these drugs. I'm particularly wary about antipsychotics, which I think are way overprescribed. Over the long term, my mother was more psychotic while taking those drugs than she has been since she stopped, about 2 years ago. To say nothing of other health risks and the horrible side effects, such as urinary and fecal incontinence, paranoia, zombie syndrome, to mention a few and not all. What are these drugs really for? They say they're bad for elderly dementia patients; maybe they just haven't had time to do the same research on all elderly patients, even those without dementia. They may be just as dangerous for those patients as for dementia patients.

I will never forget driving my mother home from the psychiatric hospital. My sweet, mild-mannered mother, with, fortunately, a strong will to live and enjoy life when well, ordered me to bring her back to the hospital (because she had a delusion that they were going to bankrupt us), and threatened to open her car door on the freeway and jump out. I am planning to research these drugs and write about our experiences when my mother can no longer be hurt by my observations.