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A New, Older Face to Opioid Addiction: AOOA Legislative Breakfast

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

The Area Office on Aging organized a legislative breakfast on April 30 to launch an initiative to raise the awareness about opioid addiction among older adults and to start a community conversation about finding solutions to the problem.

“The Area Office on Aging believes in the importance of addressing this issue of opioid addiction and older adults head on to reverse this growing trend in our community, state and nation,” said Billie Johnson, president and CEO of AOOA in the days leading up to the event.

Billie Johnson,
president and CEO of AOOA

The breakfast at Parkway Place featured a  panel discussion and a local documentary titled “Addiction and Aging” highlighting the stories of local older adults who have struggled with opioid addiction.

Ohio Senator served as master of ceremonies for the event and Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz was the moderator for the panel discussion.

Opioid addiction “can, has and will happen,” said Justin Moor, Area Office on Aging, vice president of Planning and Development, as he opened the conference. “If we believe it can’t happen to us, pretty soon it turns into a nightmare.”

The documentary stressed that patients should inform their doctors if they have ha a previous history of addiction, that youthful addictions may leave older adults vulnerable to prescription addictions, that it is not a huge obstacle for patients to obtain prescriptions, that opioids affect the brain in a manner that brings  pleasure and “the quickest way to grow a problem is to turn your back on it.”

In his opening remarks Gardner singled out Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp for praise for his leadership in the opioid addiction battle.

The first panel member to address the audience of about 400 was Nancy Orell, director of the Optimal Aging Institute at Bowling Green State University. Orell presented the history  of the current wave of addiction and how health professionals fell into the practice of prescribing opioids so freely.

She pointed to a 1999 article in the New England Journal of Medicine that claimed that opioids were not addictive and that they were ideal for treating arthritis.  Doctors had begun prescribing opioids in the late 1990’s, said Orell, unaware of the unintended consequences. However, when prescriptions ran out, so many people, now addicted, turned to other sources to relieve their discomfort – first heroin then fentanyl. – a powerful synthetic, similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent.

The largest number of people dying of opioid abuse, said Orell, are in the 25 to 54 age group but those in the 54 to 64 age group show the greatest increase in use. Forty-two percent of opioid deaths are among adults 45 years and older.

Within the 10 counties of northwest Ohio, in the 10 year period between 2007 and 2017, there were 1234 opioid-addiction caused deaths, 46 percent of those adults were over the age of 45.

In addition to Orell, Scott Sylak, executive director of the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, Dr. Areatha Hollie, pharmacist, and Tharp also were on the panel and spoke about the dangers opioids present to the older adult population.

If an older adult needs home care, he or she can call the Area Office on Aging at 419-382-0624.


Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:13 -0700.

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