Opioid addiction is an illness affecting people all over the country, especially here in Southwest Florida. But a group of people who are sometimes overlooked is seniors.
Fox 4 did some digging on how this epidemic is affecting people in our area what you need to look out for.
Ask Moya Chase to describe herself and she'll tell you she's "a mother, a grandmother, and a sober and clean woman living in recovery."
She'll also tell you getting to recovery was far from easy. “That's where my addiction took me, to the darkest of places."
Moya had been clean and sober for thirty years. She tells me that changed in 2009 when she was given a prescription for Percocet after having knee replacement surgery. "My husband said, ‘do you want me to make you a chart for the drugs?’ I said ‘no, I've been sober all these years. I don't need a chart.’"
But her control didn't last. "So he left the room and I took a handful."
Moya says she thought she was hiding her illness well, but her family quickly caught on and made her get treatment.
Her story is similar to other older people.
We spoke with Brenda Iliff, the executive director of the Hezeldon Betty Ford Clinic in Naples. She says she's seen first-hand how many people over 50 in the community have been affected by opioid addiction.
"Over half the people we treat here are fifty and older.”
Brenda says one of the problems is people over 50 are more likely to get access to prescription painkillers. "While Medicare will pay for the narcotics, for the pain pills, it won't necessarily pay for the treatment once people cross that line into addiction."
And that's why she says people caring for seniors can and should ask questions. "It's important to introduce the conversation."
It’s a conversation Moya says she's having frequently with others in recovery and she's hoping sharing her journey will lead to a positive outcome for someone else.
While researching this story we also discovered a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that says opioid misuse among people over the age of 50 doubled in recent years. Read more HERE.