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May 11th, 2004 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4634

SAMHSA, FDA and AoA Work To Help Keep America’s Older Citizens Safe and Healthy and Celebrate Older American’s Month

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Administration on Aging (AoA), agencies under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), today released public education materials to warn older Americans of the dangers of mixing certain prescription drugs or prescription medications and alcohol. SAMHSA data show two percent of admissions to treatment aged 55 and older abuse prescription narcotic medications.

“As You Age” education materials are geared to help draw attention to the need to manage prescription medication intake as well as the dangers of mixing some medications with alcohol. The effort highlights the need for more vigilance and monitoring of prescription intake by older adults. “As You Age” consists of a series of materials including print ads, radio and television public service announcements, a brochure and a website housing all of the materials which can be downloaded for adaptations and other use.

HHS is also releasing an Older Americans Kit. The kit provides useful information from various sources to help aging organizations, faith-based and community groups, policymakers, the media, and other groups educate older people and their caregivers about programs and services available to assist them, including information from SAMHSA on use of alcohol by some elderly to self-medicate anxiety or depression.

The “As You Age” brochure provides a medication checklist so that a person can keep track of the dose amount, intervals, and type of medication they need to take. It also points to the dangers of consuming alcohol with a medication that might have adverse effect due to negative interactions.

“Sometimes older Americans are considered to have dementia when in reality they are mixing prescription medications or mixing medications with alcohol,” SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said. “SAMHSA is determined to get the warning out now before aging baby boomers mix needed prescription medications with alcohol or illegal drugs with dire results.”

"We want older adults to be aware that the increased use of medicine and normal body changes caused by aging can raise the chance of unwanted or maybe even harmful drug interactions," said Acting FDA Commissioner LesterM. Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D. "People should talk with their health care team about their medical condition, health concerns, and all the medicines, vitamins and supplements they take. The more you know about your medicines, the easier it is to avoid most problems."

The Older Americans Kit contains feature articles, informational vignettes, and fact sheets on a variety of topics including health promotion and disease, care giving, volunteerism, nutrition, transportation, and elder rights. Each article, vignette and fact sheet provides information about programs and services available to assist older people and alerts people to where they can get more information. Materials will be distributed to the media, older Americans’ trade publications and organizations and to consumer organizations including health care entities.

AoA’s Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina Carbonell stated that "this year’s theme, Aging Well, Living Well, was selected to celebrate older Americans who are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives. The theme also gives us an excellent opportunity to highlight strategies and resources that can help older Americans succeed at aging and living well."