When we think of addicts and alcoholics, as a general rule, we usually picture people on the younger side who get caught up in partying, maybe fall in with the “wrong” crowd or haven’t yet assumed familial or career responsibilities that might prevent them from touching drugs. However, if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past several years – particularly as prescription drug abuse has soared – it’s that no demographic is completely immune to addiction. And some experts are reporting that older adults and Baby Boomers are the latest group experiencing spikes in cases of addiction.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), increased number of addicts over 50 will continue to climb to such heights that will require double the number of treatment services needed is expected to double by 2020. The SAMHSA also found that drug abuse among adults ages 50-59 jumped from 2.7% in 2002 to 5.8% in 2010, and that among those 55 to 59, the rate more than doubled, going from 1.9 % to 4.1% percent. So, why the drastic change?
- Coming of age in a drug-friendly culture. According to addiction and recovery blog The Fix, many Boomers came of age during the “free love and drugs” age of the 1960s and 1970s, so many of them don’t think twice about taking prescribed pills to deal with stress and other issues. This nonchalant attitude can often lead to taking more medicine that prescribed and, eventually, addiction.
- Last year, the American Psychological Association reported that its “Stress in America” survey found that older Americans are dealing with more stress than ever before. Many of these people are members of what’s being called the “Sandwich Generation,” due to the fact that they are caring for both parents and children. Many are coping through substance use and abuse.
- The University of California, San Francisco, found that the quality of life for older adults has decreased. And in addition to loneliness, mental health expert and director of the Hanley Institute, Barbara Krantz, said that Baby Boomers arrive at her facility with three or four times more emotional disorders than other groups, and report extreme anxiety, depression and chronic pain.
- Older adults are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs and alcohol because their metabolism has slowed, they have increased numbers of medical problems, they take medications that interact with other drugs and alcohol, and many of them live in isolated situations. This makes detox complicated and trickier than for younger patients.