One minute, you're a healthy and active senior who wouldn't dream of popping an Advil, much less a powerful prescription painkiller. The next, you're a certified addict who can't get through the day without an opioid drug.

Think that can't possibly happen to you? There are lots of hardcore pill poppers out there who once thought the same thing, including plenty of seniors.

And now, new numbers show just how easily older folks get hooked, with a full 10 percent of the seniors who get these meds after minor surgical procedures still taking them a year later.

These are relatively low-pain operations that might not require opioid drugs at all -- like cataract and gall bladder procedures -- but the new study shows that many docs give the drugs out anyway, automatically, and without even being asked.

And the seniors who get the meds this way -- as if they come as part of a package deal with the operation -- are 44 percent more likely to be among the long-term users.

Even worse, the seniors still using the drugs aren't showing any signs of stopping or even slowing down. In fact, many of them have switched to higher doses and more powerful drugs.

That's a sure sign of addiction, since a notorious opioid side effect is tolerance. The more you take them, the less they work -- which is why long-term users are on a constant hunt for something stronger.

This should be a wake-up call for doctors everywhere -- because if you think these drugs ruin young lives, you should see the toll they take on the elderly.

Opioid painkillers can put you in a mental fog and cause serious cognitive problems. They can also make you loopy and unsteady on your feet, turning a once-vibrant senior into a fall waiting to happen.

And if you're a senior yourself, you know the reality of those falls and fractures: Any one of them can be your last, robbing you of your independence and even your life.

I asked Dr. Mark Stengler about this study, and he said it's more proof that mainstream doctors are absolutely clueless when it comes to treating pain -- because there are much better options than dangerous and addictive drugs.

Your own answers to pain will depend on the cause, but Dr. Stengler suggests trying a natural supplement such as curcumin or MSM or a drug-free treatment like cold laser or acupuncture.

A naturopathic physician can help find the treatment that'll work best for you -- and keep you off the addictive meds that can ruin or even end your life.