Between the years 2000 and 2008, admissions for substance abuse treatment among those 50 and older increased by 70 percent while the overall 50-plus population grew by only 21 percent. Many experts think this may be due to “boomers” having broader experience with substance abuse, which was developed three or four decades ago.
Among the “boomer generation”, experts have observed a rise in illicit drug use, while treatment for alcohol has dropped even though it remains the chief addiction among older adults. The 2008 statistics show 59.9 percent of those 50 and older seeking treatment cited alcohol as their primary substance, down from 84.6 percent in 1992. Heroin came in second, accounting for 16 percent of admissions in that age group, more than double its share in the earlier survey. Cocaine was third, at 11.4 percent, more than four times its 1992 rate.
Treatment professionals believe the actual number of older people with substance abuse problems is many times larger than the amount seeking help. It is important to remember that addiction knows no age limits.