Medicare Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise

A recent examination of federal data conducted by USA Today has recently revealed that the number of U.S. senior citizens receiving narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medications under Medicare’s prescription drug program is sharply rising. Recreational drug use can still be classified under medication-related problems (MRPs).  Caregivers can play a key role in identifying and managing substance abuse issues, however, they may also be held liable if they fail to notice the signs of substance abuse.

According to the data collected between, 2007-2012, the number of senior patients receiving Medicare prescriptions for opioid-based pain medications has increased by more than 30 percent to upward of 8.5 million beneficiaries.

Specifically, the use of the most commonly abused painkillers, like hydrocodone and oxycodone, rose by more than 50 percent. The data also showed a significant increase of the personal supply of each narcotic provided to the average recipient rose about 15 percent over approximately three months.

The figures further suggests that nearly 20 percent of the nation’s 43 million senior citizens receive Medicare prescriptions for narcotics like Vicodin and Percocet for their aches and pains,  often leading to a long-term, habitual use. Similarly, the data showed that the number of seniors receiving Medicare prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, such as alprazolam (Xanax), busipirone and lorazepam (Ativan), increased nearly 25 percent to over 700,000.

It is important to note, that the aforementioned data on antianxiety medications may be underestimated.  Over the last year, Medicare drug benefit (Medicare Part D) began expanding coverage of anti-anxiety medication, and use of such drugs among senior citizens is expected to increase.

Although these medications provide necessary relief to its respective elderly consumers, many narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medicines carry considerable risks of abuse and dependence if their use is not closely supervised over longer periods. Indeed, research has highlighted the connection between habitual use of these medicines and an elderly individual’s increased risk of injury from falls, impaired breathing, and cognitive issues. Furthermore, these risks are more likely to increase when these drugs are consumed simultaneously with other prescribed medications. As such, it is important for senior citizens, their care takers, and their loved ones alike to be judicious in monitoring not only their intake of such prescription medicines, but also their effects.

If you or an elderly loved one have any concerns about the signs or effects of prescription medication abuse, it is imperative that you speak with the proper medical authorities immediately.  Additionally, if you suspect that a loved one has been the victim of an over-administration of their medications, due to a lack of proper supervision by a caretaker or any other administrator, contact  Tanya Hobson-Williams, P.C. for the representation you deserve.

Written by Tanya Hobson-Williams

Appointed to the bench by the Board of Trustees in 2008, and elected in 2009, Tanya Hobson-Williams was the first African-American Female Justice in the Incorporated Village of Hempstead. Tanya Hobson–Williams obtained her B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Tanya Hobson-Williams has an active elder law practice assisting senior citizens in obtaining Medicaid for Home Care and Nursing Home Care. She routinely lectures at senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities, law schools and counsels families on a variety of topics of concerns to families caring for the elderly.

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Author: Tanya Hobson-Williams

Appointed to the bench by the Board of Trustees in 2008, and elected in 2009, Tanya Hobson-Williams was the first African-American Female Justice in the Incorporated Village of Hempstead. Tanya Hobson–Williams obtained her B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John's University and her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Tanya Hobson-Williams has an active elder law practice assisting senior citizens in obtaining Medicaid for Home Care and Nursing Home Care. She routinely lectures at senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities, law schools and counsels families on a variety of topics of concerns to families caring for the elderly.

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