In The News: Drug Addicted Baby Boomers
After World War II as soldiers’ came back home from the war to start families the United States experienced a baby boom that lasted from 1946-1964. 79 million people were born in America during the baby boom. People born within that time period are referred to as the Baby Boomer generation and include a generation filled with many different groups of people in respects to their gender, sex, sexual orientation, cultural make-up, socio-economical status, political views and the list goes on and on. Every generation experiences its’ own growth and challenges and baby boomers were born into a generation of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Drug abuse has always lurked within American society rearing its’ ugly head in the streets, back alleys, locker rooms, schools, gyms, offices and in our homes. Drug use specific to the baby boomer generation began during War World II, when soldiers were given Amphetamine to combat fatigue and improve both mood and endurance. Soldiers came home hooked on drugs (not just amphetamines either) and thus passed along those addictions to their families – genetically, socially and within the family function. After the war, amphetamine was actively prescribed for depression and soon became the “pep pill” for athletes to achieve better performance. In the 1960’s many “speed labs” popped up but slowly died down in the 1970’s. As we know, drugs such as amphetamine never really go away they either diminish in demand due to government and law enforcement crack downs or due to another rising drug. In the case of amphetamine all three happened and the drug that helped lower it’s’ demand was cocaine. After being banned in 1914 and its’ use slowly diminishing from 1920-1940, cocaine soon became popular in the 1970’s with it’s’ popularization in the media and in entertainment. Cocaine quickly became the thing to do, it was cool – all of your favorite singers, actors, and friends were doing it. At this point the oldest baby boomers were in their early 20’s and partying all night and engaging in drugging and risky behavior. In 1982, there were 10.4 million Americans addicted to cocaine. Whoa! Other drugs that have impacted the baby boomer generation from 1960’s into the 2000’s are crack cocaine, LSD, Marijuana, Opium and Heroin. [PBS, A Social History of America’s Most Popular Drugs 1995-2012]
Fast forward to 2012 and we have a generation of baby boomers that are either still battling their drug addictions from decades ago or they’re becoming addicted later in life. The Huffington Post reports that based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 4.8 million adults aged 50 and older used an illicit drug — whether it was an illegal substance or non-medical use of a prescription — last year. The number of older drug abusers has increased so much in the past decade that the National Institute of Health released its first consumer alert for seniors last month.
This could be for two reasons: (1) there were more people born in that generation and therefore there are now more people in that age group than before; and (2) baby boomers were more likely than previous generations to use illicit drugs in their youth, which is a risk factor for later use.
There’s also the case for those who are being prescribed more medications as they get older for chronic illinesses and are taking them not as directed and becoming accidental addicts. Families are going to have to pay closer attention to the elders in their families and watch for potential drug abuse that’s not just signs of getting older. Whether we want to accept it or not, drug abuse is an epidemic and this is an indication that no one is safe.
What does this mean for treatment centers? The rise in baby boomers is going to force treatment centers to change the way they approach treatment for those in their early 50’s -60’s who’s needs are special to their experience as baby boomers and how they’ve handle their lives in today’s environment. Many of them could be experiencing divorces, loss of jobs, homes and children moving away and starting their own lives. There should be special programs just for those who grew up a generation that embraced drug use which is not portrayed in the media today as it was in the late 60’s – 70s.
If you are a baby boomer or senior in need of drug and/or alcohol treatment give us a call at 1-877-711-4673 and speak to one of our addiction specialist.