Last week we talked about using a pain scale to evaluate pain, but what happens when pain, anxiety and insomnia are literally “off the chart?” Three out of five of the senior adults in my own family were dependent on prescription medications. Shocking isn’t it, but statistics tell us that this is not unusual. What do you have to do to keep from becoming another statistic? Pain medications are not a long-term solution. You need to understand that dependency, especially to opioid pain medications, can set in after just a few days. Dependency is a soft word, but let’s look at it for what it is, an addiction. Addiction to prescription medications has become a serious problem for seniors. It is important that you know what you are taking. If you hear the word opioid (Oxycontin, Percodan, Demerol to name a few) a red flag should go up. Seniors are at risk: • Drug Interactions. If you have one or more chronic conditions, and are taking a handful of medications, the likelihood of a drug interaction is high. • Metabolism slows with age. The active ingredients in all drugs will stay in your system longer. • Serious side effects. Drowsiness, dizziness, and slower reaction time makes you an accident waiting to happen. Does this mean that you have to “bite the bullet,” or “grin and bear it” like in the old days? Maybe just a little. Rate your pain, decide if you can in fact “grin and bear it,” or get help. Don’t discount the benefits of alternate therapies: • Physical Therapy to strengthen muscles and absorb pressure on joints. • Devices can be used (splints and braces) to immobilize painful joints. Using a cane or a walker is another way to redistribute weight and give painful joints a break. • Acupuncture had been known to reduce chronic pain. • Massage therapy has been known to reduce anxiety and relax muscles and tendons. Pain medications can be life savers during an acute emergency but they are for short term use only. Be an informed consumer. Be aware of the very real danger of addiction, accidental overdose, physical dependency, and constipation.