Alcohol And Substance Abuse Rising Among Baby Boomers, More Seeking Treatment
According to a number of recent studies and resounding self-reports, an increasing number of baby boomers, born between 1946-1964, are engaging in alcohol and substance abuse, including both prescription and illicit drugs.
This trend is worrisome to physicians, addiction treatment specialists, families, and the boomers themselves who are trying to understand why they are ending up needing addiction treatment as they near the last few years of their lives.
For example, a recent study revealed that the number of Americans consuming alcohol spiked 65% from 2002-2013, and this was especially true for older adults. High-risk drinking, often called binge drinking, is the consumption of more than four alcoholic drinks in an episode.
Experts estimate that by 2020, as many as 5.7 million American adults aged 50 or older will have a substance use disorder.
Also, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2012, there were more than 14,000 adults aged 65 or older admitted to addiction treatment programs. Moreover, for this age group, on any given day there were 29 admissions to alcohol treatment programs and six admissions to programs that treated heroin or other opioids.
Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network indicate that on any given day in 2011, there were more than 2,000 older adults who visited an emergency department for reasons related to drug use – 290 involved illegal drugs, non-medical use of prescription drugs, or drugs used in conjunction with alcohol consumption.
And the problem reaches around the globe – in the United Kingdom, for example, the number of deaths related to alcohol among people over age 50 has increased by 45% since 2001, states the Office for National Statistics.
So why the dramatic increase in drinking among baby boomer? There are probably many reasons.
One, older adults can often afford to drink and also contend that they should be allowed to do so – these are people who grew up in an era of rampant drug and alcohol use and may have a pro-substance perspective.
Also, prescription medications are readily accessible to baby boomers, which when combined with other drugs or alcohol can result in dangerous effects.
And there are emotional factors as well – drugs and alcohol are often used as self-medication in an attempt to negate negative emotions. Aging frequently equates to the loss of loved ones, less physical activity, and a decline in income and feelings of purpose.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology