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An older adult picking up a prescription at the pharmacy.

In 2015, almost 12 million Medicare beneficiaries received at least 1 prescription of opioids (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, fentanyl or their generic equivalents), at an estimated cost of $4.1 billion, according to a June 2016 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The report confirms that the opioid epidemic affects people of all ages. "It's not just a young person's problem," said Frederic Blum, PhD, director of addiction research at the University of Michigan, in Associated Press News ("Nearly 1 in 3 on Medicare Get Commonly Abused Opioids" – June 22, 2016).

Blum calls the magnitude of the opioid use among seniors "astounding." Each Medicare beneficiary who was prescribed a commonly abused opioid received an average of 5 prescriptions a year.

In 2014, more people died of drug overdoses than any previous year on record, and opioids were associated in 60% of those deaths.

In March 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines to address the opioid epidemic, recommending safe alternatives like physical therapy for most pain management.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.

Find a PT Near You!


The American Physical Therapy Association launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the risks of opioids and the safe alternative of physical therapy for long-term pain management. Learn more at our Safe Pain Management page.

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