It was recently reported that drug abuse is surging among baby boomers. In fact, for adults aged 50 to 54, the percentage of consumers of illicit substances more than doubled from 3.4% in 2002 to 7.2% last year. For those aged 55 to 59, it more than tripled from 1.9% to 6.6%.
What are the most commonly abused drugs by those who are 50 and over?
Prescription pills are more common as surgeries and health ailments become more frequent with age. However, an addict will use anything they can to feel better, and their drug of choice may change over time. More and more, the over 50 crowd is combination of opiates, such as pain pills and benzodiazepines (Xanax) with alcohol. This combination is mostly responsible for the high level of unintentional drug overdose and death. Alcohol addiction is still the most prevalent among people 50 and older, however, there are more and more people over 50 abusing illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and prescription drugs.
A recent government report showed that record numbers of baby boomers are in treatment for drug abuse. The number of people over 50 treated for heroin abuse has more than doubled since 1992, those treated for cocaine addiction quadrupled, and even more shocking, five times as many boomers were in treatment for prescription drug abuse.
Baby Boomer Addicts: Statistics
In 2010, nearly 2.4 million people ages 50 to 59 said they had abused prescription or illegal drugs within the past month; more than double that of 2002, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.
Emergency rooms nationwide are seeing more patients age 55 and older for reactions to cocaine, heroin and especially marijuana.
Visits to the emergency room for marijuana abuse, for example, jumped 200% from 2004 to 2009 in this age group, according to Gayathri Dowling, PhD, the acting chief of the science policy branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Baby Boomer Addicts: Factors
Early Drug Use
A lot of baby boomers used drugs in their youth, which is a risk factor in developing substance abuse and addiction issues later in life. The younger you use, the more likely you are to have problems later. A lot of boomers grew up doing drugs, and experts said many never stopped – or are turning to them again to help cope with the normal stresses of aging.
Baby boomers grew up in a culture where drug use became less stigmatized. In the age of the Flower Power movement and Love-Ins, drugs like marijuana and LSD became commonly used and more widely accepted. Other harder drugs were also floating around: Quaaludes (a predecessor to today’s ‘designer drug’) and cocaine.
Coping with the Aging Process
The physical ailments that accompany the aging process play a big part in the formation of baby boomer addicts. As we get older, aches and pains become more and more frequent, which can also bring the potential for prescription drug abuse.
In addition to the physical discomfort and pain that baby boomers are experiencing, many times, they are also experiencing emotional pain; as they age, baby boomers are lonely, sad, and kind of isolated. Using drugs is a way for them to feel good for a while, and, if it worked for them in the past, maybe it will work now.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.