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Opiates and elderly: Use and side effects

Authors Diane L Chau, Vanessa Walker, Latha Pai, Lwin M Cho

Published 6 June 2008 Volume 2008:3(2) Pages 273—278


Diane L Chau1, Vanessa Walker2, Latha Pai3, Lwin M Cho4

University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, NV, USA 1Division Geriatric Medicine, 2Internal Medicine, 3Psychiatry, 4Geriatric Medicine, Sierra Nevada Healthcare System, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Reno, NV, USA

Abstract: The evaluation of pain and the subsequent issue of pain control is a clinical challenge that all healthcare providers face. Pain in the elderly population is especially difficult given the myriad of physiological, pharmacological, and psychological aspects of caring for the geriatric patient. Opiates are the mainstay of pain treatment throughout all age groups but special attention must be paid to the efficacy and side effects of these powerful drugs when prescribing to a population with impaired metabolism, excretion and physical reserve. In a random chart review of 300 US veterans, 44% of those receiving an analgesic also received opioids. The increasing use of opiates for pain management by healthcare practitioners requires that those prescribing opioids be aware of the special considerations for treating the elderly. This article will address the precautions one must take when using opiates in the geriatric population, as well as the side effects and ways to minimize them.

Keywords: opiates, pain, elderly, side effects

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