Are Your Adult Family Members Abusing Prescription Drugs?

As parents age their adult children are often tasked with discussing tough subjects including finances, planning for the future, end of life care, and what to do when they die. A recent survey for WellCare Health Plans, Inc. revealed that prescription drug abuse has become a major area of concern for those caring for older relatives.

The survey revealed that adults living with both parents or in-laws and teenaged children are more concerned about prescription drug abuse with it comes to their parents than the teens in their household. Almost two-thirds of people in this position don’t feel like they know how to help their parents. Many don’t know where to start because they don’t know which prescriptions their parents take.

Over 75% of survey respondents said weren’t sure that they would recognize the signs of substance abuse. Roberta Griffith, a retired educator and credentialed substance abuse counselor, says that the behaviors that result from prescription drug abuse are often mistaken as normal aging behavior. These symptoms include forgetfulness, sadness, or occasional disorientation. To find out more about specific signs of prescription drug abuse, visit the source article at the Forbes website.

Here are 5 steps to take to keep your older parent healthy and safe if you are concerned that they may be abusing prescription drugs:

1. Get the Facts. It may feel like snooping, but it is important to find out what prescription medications your parents are taking and make sure you know which doctors they see. You may need to check the medicine cabinet or bedside tables to get the whole story. Pay special attention if they are taking opioids or benzodiazepines (a type of tranquilizer) as these pose a high risk of abuse.  Also pay attention if you see prescriptions from different pharmacies, as this is a sign of possible abuse.

2. Monitor the Meds. Observe your parents taking their medications. Note when and how often they take each medication. Check that they are following the prescription instructions for  dose as well. If they are also taking over-the-counter medications or supplements, make sure their doctors know about these non-prescription drugs.

3. Ask Questions. Poor sleep can be a sign of stress and can lead to or be caused by prescription drug abuse. Ask your parent about their sleep habits and encourage them to talk to their doctor if they are not sleeping well.

4. Go to Appointments. Offer to go to the doctor with them so you can learn about their conditions and medications and share your observations and concerns.

5. Talk about their Social Life. Find out about your parents’ social life for clues to whether they are depressed or struggling with something. Pay attention to changes in their level of activity or interest in things that used to make them happy, as this could signal a problem.

It can be hard to keep a family member accountable alone. That’s why Hayver offers a unique Circle of Support that keeps participants and their loved ones connected throughout the recovery process. To learn about the research-based addiction treatment and monitoring tools from Hayver, please visit or contact us at info(at)