Baby Boomers Rediscovering Old Addictions

Posted on September 12th, 2012

baby boomer sitting on stairsEach day, nearly 10,000 baby boomers turn fifty years old. With age comes more ailments, more medications, and more medical attention for more people. As boomers visit doctors and emergency rooms, researchers are noticing a rise in the numbers of those in this age group that are falling into drug addiction.

Some experts believe that substance abuse treatment focused solely on the baby boomers may help curb the climbing number of addictions and offer the best treatment options for this generation.

High Numbers

The National Institutes of Health reported that the number of people aged 50 to 59 who abused illegal or prescription drugs more than doubled from 2002 to 2010. Between 2002 and 2010, the numbers rose from 904,000 to 2.4 million.

Emergency rooms are reporting an influx of patients over age 55 for problems related to marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Dr. Gayathri Dowling of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said that marijuana abuse alone caused emergency room visits to soar 200 percent between 2004 and 2009.

Why Them, Why Now?

Interviews with fifty-something individuals and insight from doctors have revealed some of the reasons why substance abuse is climbing so rapidly in this age group.

  • Sheer Numbers-Between 1946 and 1964, approximately 75 million people were born. This generation went through the era when using drug experimentation was more accepted than it is now.
  • Aging- Boomers have reached an age that requires a greater use of prescription drugs. Some start taking pain prescriptions responsibly and then fall into drug abuse. Those already using illicit drugs then find themselves using both drugs simultaneously-a dangerous mix.
  • Addiction as a Youth- Some claim that boomers find it easier to start drug use again if they had already used drugs in their youth. The younger they were when they started, the easier they find it to get hooked again.
  • Stage of Life-grief, anxiety, depression, and loneliness from divorce, retirement, job loss, and the onset of more health ailments can all contribute to more use of drugs.

A Focus on Boomers

Some health professionals believe that treatment should be focused specifically on this large generation of individuals. Specific treatment programs focused on this age group could help address early addictions and their association with addictions later in life.

Doctors can also view their older patients in a new way. While many drug prevention programs are focused on teenagers, there still needs to be prevention for older citizens, too, and especially those who had drug problems in their youth.

Some characteristics used to describe the Baby Boomer generation have been ambitious or over-achiever. Therapists have found that this drive to create and succeed actually has helped some to fight their addictions. Once given some direction and assistance, this strong older generation is inspired to overcome their addictions and not fall into the age of addiction again.

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