Aging Well in the Gorge August 8th 2017

We’ve been hearing in the news about the opioid epidemic effecting many working-class communities in America. In the past when I thought of opioid abuse I thought of heroin use. But according to the most recent data, in 2015 over 13,000 people have died from heroin – but over 15,000 people have died from overdoses on legal prescription opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, and others. In addition, every day over one thousand people across the country are treated in emergency rooms for misusing prescribed opiates.
But I was surprised to read in Terry Lynn’s article in the Oregonian, it’s not just young people affected by this epidemic.
In fact, in 2015, Oregonians age 65 and over are entering the hospital for opioid overdoses, abuse, dependence and adverse effects at a greater rate than any other state. In Oregon, the rate has tripled in the past decade; peaking at 700 hospitalizations per 100,000 elderly which translates to 4,500 people.
But why does Oregon have the highest rate nationally? While there is not a definitive answer, there are several possible factors.
First is history. Oregon has been a national leader in encouraging a more liberal use of medications that focus on treating pain. Consequently, doctors have continued to prescribe more opioids to older adults. Also, many people who started taking opioids when they were younger have likely stayed on them or resumed using them when experiencing arthritis or after having hip or knee replacements.
Second is a lack of awareness. Many doctors underestimate the effect of opioids on older adults.
Third is perception. Many doctors miss seeing opioid abuse in older adults, because they see substance abuse and addiction as a young person’s problem; or they might associate symptoms such as falls, delirium and memory loss, with aging instead of opioids.      
Chronic pain can dramatically affect your life. Thankfully, pain relieving opioids can bring some comfort particularly for hospice or cancer patients or for patients during or after surgery. But always be aware of the risks. Even when prescribed by a doctor, regular use of opioids can lead to dependence, and even overdose and death.
Speaking of medications, often when you are discharged from the hospital, you will be prescribed an opioid such as Vicodin in case the pain returns. But what do you do if you don’t use it or any other medications?
Thanks to the partnership between YouthThink, MCMC and The Dalles Police Force, you can drop off your unwanted medications at The Dalles police station. Just walk inside, turn to your left and you will find a green container where you can safely drop your unwanted medications – but they will not accept needles or sharps, thermometers, medical waste or equipment, or inhalers.
No music on the 15thbut the all-star band of Andre, K.C., Tom and Joe will be back at the Center on the 22nd playing blues, bluegrass, ballads and country rock for your dancing and listening pleasure.
The name of the comic strip first introduced in 1931 featuring a police detective was Dick Tracy. (I received answers from Marta Moser, Donna Smith, and several of the regular suspects: Ed Anghilante (who I also missed mentioning several weeks ago), Jim Ayres, Diane Weston, Jess Birge, Jerry Phillips, and Bob and Sandy Haechrel. But this week’s winner of a quilt raffle ticket goes to Joel Brown who texted me his answer using his Dick Tracy-like smartwatch.)
Continuing with comic strips from the past, this comic strip debuted in 1919 and starred Barney Google with his Goo-Goo-Googly eyes. But in 1934, Barney visited “Hootin’ Holler” in the North Carolina mountains and met a “bodacious hillbilly” who became the star of the comic strip. For this week’s “Remember When” question, what was the name of this character with the broad brimmed felt hat, scraggly moustache, and tattered britches? Email your answers to, leave a message at 541-296-4788 or send it with a bottle of “corn-likker” moonshine in a plain brown paper bag so Sheriff Magill won’t confiscate it.
Well, it’s been another week, trying to decide, do I stay hydrated during the hot day, or do I sleep through the night. Until we meet again, as I was recently told at the Center, there are times when living by yourself is bad company.

“If you think communication is all talking, you haven’t been listening.” Ashleigh Brilliant

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