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Opioid epidemic’s impact on older adults topic of upcoming UT, BGSU seminar

The University of Toledo is partnering with Bowling Green State University’s Optimal Aging Institute, the Wood County Committee on Aging and the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio to hold a town hall discussion on how the opioid crisis is affecting older adults and what the community can do to help.

The program, called Opioid Misuse and Addiction Among Older Adults, will be held Friday, Oct. 5, from 7:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Penta Career Center in Perrysburg.

Among the scheduled speakers will be Lance Robertson, assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Opioid abuse is often seen as a problem that only affects young adults, but experts say misuse among older Americans is a real and rapidly growing concern.

“We don’t think of it as much in older adult populations, and it’s probably not as prevalent, but it certainly is a problem that exists and needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Victoria Steiner, associate professor in the UT School of Population Health and assistant director of the Center for Successful Aging.

Overdose incidents among older Americans are rising sharply. Earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses among those aged 35 to 54 increased by 37 percent. Among those 55 or older, ER visits were up by 32 percent. More than 44 percent of overdose deaths in 2016 occurred in those 45 and older, the CDC reported.

Beyond overdoses, there are other unique concerns related to prescription opioid use in older populations.

“Even if they’re not addicted, opioids can cause problems with breathing, with confusion and with falls in older adults,” Steiner said. “There’s also a risk that somebody else in the family could be diverting their medications.”

Topics to be addressed at the seminar include warning signs that older adults may be suffering from opioid addiction; examples of situations that increase the risk for abuse or addiction; evidence-based pain management in the era of the opioid crisis; and public policy and resources for health-care professionals who work with older adults and their families.

“Older adults are interfacing with so many different health-care professionals and our hope with this Oct. 5 presentation is to bring in all these providers so they receive the same prevention education messages and recognize the importance of assessing opioid use and misuse,” said Dr. Nancy Orel, executive director of research at BGSU’s Optimal Aging Institute and interim chair of the Department of Human Services.

To register for the free, public event, call the Wood County Committee on Aging at 419.353.5661 or email oai@bgsu.edu. The event does not offer continuing medical education credits.