By 2020, the amount of people in substance abuse treatment in America will necessitate twice as many drug and alcohol addiction programs. This is the conclusion of Peter Delany, the director of the Office of Applied Studies of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. His rationale is simple: hordes of fifty year olds are entering the addiction statistics.
Baby boomers, the large and trend-setting generation born between 1946 and 1964, in many instances, still carry the rampant drug abuse of the sixties and seventies into their present lives. As the baby boomers hit 50, the prevalence of marijuana and prescription drug abuse for that demographic grew by over fifty percent. The admission rate for senior citizens into rehab centers has almost doubled between 1992 and 2008.
The health detriments and risks of excessive drinking and drug use for this age group is significantly worse, the outcome more bleak. According to Delany, “physiology slows down as you age, so the stuff processed out of your body when you were younger won’t be processed out so quickly when you are older.’’ Therefore, drugs and alcohol may be causing more physical impairment as drinkers and drug users continue to age, he suggests.
Other complications relate to the increased amount of legitimate prescriptions the middle aged need to take. These interactions are not only unhealthy, they also make diagnosis more difficult for their healthcare providers. Aside from this, they make an accident prone and fragile population even more vulnerable.
Despite these implications, prescription drug use sky-rocketed five-fold, heroin addiction more than doubled and cocaine and marijuana abuse has nearly quadrupled. Although three-quarters of the patients began their primary addiction by 25 years of age, more and more baby-boomers are entering treatment for addictions that began within the past several years.