Medicare Part D is Aiding Seniors’ Addiction to Pain Meds

Medicare Part D is Aiding Seniors’ Addiction to Pain Meds

According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, as many as 17% of adults age 60 and over abuse prescription drugs. Narcotic pain killers, sleeping pills and tranquillizers are common medications of abuse.

Today’s New York Times reports that about 170,000 Medicare beneficiaries received prescriptions from five or more medical practitioners. They report of patients who had received prescriptions for a 994-day supply of hydrocodone pills from 25 different prescribers in one year, to which one Texas doctor responded, “it was medically unnecessary and possibly dangerous to consume the amount of narcotics obtained by the beneficiary.” Really? Come on! Take it from me, addicts will go to any length to find unscrupulous physicians and pharamcists who will provide them with all the prescriptions they need. I know. My dad was one such addict, before overdosing and dying from fentanyl.

How do you know whether a loved one is addicted to pain meds?

  • How much are they taking? If they used to take 1 or 2 a day, and now taking 4 a day or 6 a day, that’s a red flag.
  • Has their behavior or mood changed? Are they argumentative, sullen, withdrawn or anxious? 
  • Are they giving excuses as to why they need the pills?
  • Do they ever express remorse or concern about taking pills?
  • Do they have a “purse or pocket supply” in case of emergency? 
  • Have they ever been treated by a physician or hospital for excessive use of pills?
  • Have they ever been treated for alcohol or drug abuse – even earlier in life? 
  • Have they changed doctors or drug stores? 
  • Have they received the same pill from two or more physicians or druggists at approximately the same time?
  • Do they become annoyed or uncomfortable when others talk about their use of medications?
  • Do they ever sneak or hide pills?

They’re just like any other addict and will try almost anything to get the pills, including stealing prescription pads and paying the neighborhood pusher for drugs. My dad woud call my wife, a physician, crying because he was in so much pain. When she told him to take four advils, he got angry-he wanted (needed) his fentanyl. One time when he was bare-chested I noticied that he was wearing six fentanyl patches! And, I could tell when he ran out of his supply. He wound up in the hospital saying that he had a bad case of the flu-when he was really going through withdrawal.

Before we drastically cut Medicare by hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe we should try rooting out all the fraud and abuse that exists in the system. Let’s find a way to review all charges before clicking on a computer and sending out a check without asking any questions. Medicare has been a gravy train for good doctors and quacks for too long. If we want future generations to benefit from this otherwise excellent program, we must reform how they pay providers.

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