Canadians over 50 are more affected by opioids than the rest of the population

Patients over the age of 50 are prescribed more powerful pain medications more often than the rest of the Canadian population. They also suffer more often from serious side effects.

The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly ( National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly ) released a report Wednesday on the use of opioids among older Canadians.

The data used by the researchers for the report classifies patients into two categories: those over 50 years of age, and patients over 65 years old.

According to the report, older adults have higher rates of chronic pain and illness than the general population. As a result, they are prescribed opioids regularly to treat problems such as arthritis and cancer.

According to the researchers, 20% of patients over 65 receive opioids, compared to 12.5% ​​of the general population.

The report also cites research showing that older adults have a higher risk of side effects than younger adults because their bodies do not treat drugs as effectively.

In addition, the researchers criticized the general lack of available data on the effects of opioids in elderly patients or the rates of abuse of potent analgesics in this age group.

Mix of drugs

According to research co-investigator Christopher Klinger, research also shows that people over 65 have a higher hospitalization rate than any other age group due to opioid intoxication.

“It’s really alarming,” said the researcher.

In some cases, the elderly are hospitalized because they have mixed medications that have been prescribed by different specialists.

The report calls for better staff training and data sharing across jurisdictions to determine which opioid prescribing strategies work.

A national opioid strategy that specifically addresses the needs of older people would also be helpful, researchers believe.

“Some of the drugs do not interact,” he said.

Transdermal patches of fentanyl

Seniors are more likely to overdose when they forget to remove their transdermal patch of fentanyl and apply another patch.

“There is still some fentanyl residue on the patch,” said Marilyn White-Campbell, a geriatric consultant with the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH). “Some overdoses are fatal. ”

The study found that most overdoses were accidental, but “an alarming amount” is intentional. More than 30% of cases involved patients – mostly men – who attempted suicide.


The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly invites health professionals to tailor treatment to the specific needs of older people.

She recommends conducting research to improve pain management and a comprehensive study of the long-term effects of opioids on older adults.

A national opioid strategy, which specifically addresses the needs of older people, would also be useful, according to the researchers.

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