Are America’s Senior Citizens Our Newest Drug Dealers?

A senior citizen in handcuffs.

For many senior citizens, money is pretty tight. Most are on fixed incomes and it may be a struggle to make ends meet. Add in the complicating factor that many seniors are also in pain from various causes and may be prescribed painkillers paid for by Medicare. Perhaps it’s not surprising that some of our senior citizens have taken to selling their pills to supplement their incomes. When you consider that these pills are addictive and can cause overdose deaths, that’s when things get really serious.

From one end of the continent to the other, news reports reveal the number of senior citizens running afoul of the law because of their illicit sales of pills.

  • In Indiana, a 78-year-old grandmother was arrested after selling OxyContin to an undercover policeman. She had accumulated a $20,000 nest egg, stashed in her apartment.
  • A Pennsylvania grandmother was arrested outside a Dunkin’ Donuts after passing twelve oxycodone pills to her granddaughter.
  • In Ohio and Nova Scotia, it was reported that drug dealers were hanging around outside pharmacies and offering to buy pills from senior citizens as they exited. Three Ohio women around the age of 60 were arrested for accepting these offers.
  • In San Francisco, two officers arrested a frail, elderly man trying to sell Vicodin and antibiotics. Track marks on his arms and legs were evidence of his addiction to heroin—a much cheaper drug.
  • In Kentucky, a jailer reported that it was no longer unusual for the elderly to show up in jails because Appalachian senior citizens were increasingly caught selling their painkillers to make some extra money. An 87-year-old woman in this state was imprisoned for selling her pills.
  • A 73-year-old woman in Mississippi was arrested for one count of selling her Lortab.
  • A 65-year-old Tennessee woman with back problems traveled to Virginia where her daughter lived to sell her OxyContin pills. She used much of the proceeds to buy lottery tickets

More Pills in Distribution, More Pills to Sell

According to one report, 40% of U.S. painkillers are being used by the elderly. When each pill can fetch as much as $50, it can be hard for a senior citizen to resist the lure of this easy money. Tragically, this decision could mean that some of these individuals will spend the next several years in jail.

Meanwhile, overdose deaths from pain relievers stay high, as can be seen in this chart from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Chart shows overdose deaths from prescription opioids.

The number of overdose deaths parallels the statistics for number of painkiller prescriptions, revealing the potentially deadly quality of these drugs.

Chart of the number of prescriptions of painkillers in U.S.

Saving our seniors from incarceration and saving lives from overdoses will require many changes, including more controlled prescribing practices and effective rehabilitation for those who become addicted. For more than a decade, Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma has been helping individuals from all over the country recover a lasting, productive sobriety after addiction. More than ten thousand families have chosen Narconon Arrowhead for the rehabilitation of a loved one.

The Narconon rehab program has proven effective in ending addiction to all types of drugs, including painkillers and heroin, from its very start in 1966. Learn more about this 100% drug-free rehab program by calling 1-855-646-8505 today.



After a few years working at the Narconon center in Oklahoma, Karen has been researching drug trends around the world and writing reports and articles on addiction and recovery for seven years.