The US is currently experiencing a large, and growing, drugs problem, and opioids are at the core of it. Between 2000 and 2014, deaths from overdoses involving these drugs, which include heroin and fentanyl, have soared by 200%, overtaking car accidents as a cause of death. And as America’s population ages, the number of elderly addicts is also rising, as Hazelden Publishing’s new book Not as Prescribed details.

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his is a drugs epidemic touching communities throughout the US, as you can see from the Guardian newspaper’s interactive map. Unlike some previous battlegrounds of the ‘war on drugs’, this is a crisis that is being played out in wealthier and whiter areas too, such as parts of Ohio where this week’s BBC documentary Smack in Suburbia: America’s Heroin Crisis investigates those directly affected. The roots of addiction run deep, but what many agree is that this particular crisis has arisen partly due to the wide availability of opiate medication, originally prescribed by doctors for pain relief, but which has sometimes then led to addiction in patients. When these painkillers, which include OxyContin and Vicodin among others, become harder for those struggling with addiction to access, the transition to other, often cheaper, opioids like heroin is sometimes made.

Not as Prescribed

In Not as Prescribed: Recognizing and Facing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Older Adults, Hazelden Publishing shows readers how to distinguish between older adults they know enjoying their retirement or taking painkillers safely, and the possibility of substance misuse. Given that in the US, an estimated 17% of the over-60s struggle with addiction, this is an essential book for family, friends and carers. Author, Dr Harry Haroutunian, flags up the differences between the signs of aging and the signs of addiction, some of which overlap, and provides the support needed to guide older adults through treatment. It is a book that is badly needed, not only in America’s heartlands, but also worldwide, and particularly in countries with aging populations.