Prescription drug addiction hitting senior citizens hard

Prescription drug addiction hitting senior citizens hard
Published: .
Updated: .

After five weeks of being clean, John is still dealing with the tremors of Xanax withdrawal.

He started taking it more than a decade ago for anxiety but quickly built a tolerance and needed more.

"I finally found a site on the internet where I could get them and that's when I started taking 6 to 8 per day," John remembered.

One in four adults over 50 years old are taking a psycho-active drug - either a narcotic painkiller or anxiety drug like Xanax. Between 2007 and 2011, there was a 46 percent jump among this population seeking substance abuse treatment. With the opiate epidemic, those numbers are projected to be even higher.

"I know now I wish I'd never would have taken them," John said.

John lost his job, his relationship and is in financial ruin. He's now living with his sister who hopes people start questioning their doctors.

"When they get prescribed something they think, 'Oh, it's ok, I've got a prescription. My doctor gave it to me, it must be fine'," said Patty Puskak, John's sister. "You have to be more involved in your own care."

"They just give it out like it's candy just to get their money for a doctor's visit," said John. "They hand you a prescription and you're all happy until you realize you're addicted and it's too late."

As a patient, John does take some responsibility himself.

"I'm sure the pharmacist asked me if I had any questions about this drug and I'm sure I said, 'No.' Had I said, 'Yes, what are the consequences?' maybe I wouldn't be sitting here."