The number of young people suffering from addiction and alcoholism is startling. Recently, Hazelden and AARP published a book focusing on another population who is facing an epidemic of substance abuse: baby boomers. Street drugs are hardly the problem. The problem is alcohol and prescription drugs.
Adults aged 50 years and older are facing a rapidly growing problem with abusing drugs and alcohol. 17% of older adults are misusing or abusing alcohol and prescription drugs. “By 2020”, the authors write, “the number of addicted older adults is expected to double to about 6 million.” Considering certain populations, that number is highly concerning. The highest rate of alcoholism in the United States belongs to widowers over the age of 75, the authors include. Admission to hospitals for alcohol related illnesses is as common for adults as admission for heart attack.
What is causing the upsurge?
The authors write there are four major contributing factors to this increase in substance abuse in older adults.
There are 76 million boomers heading into retirement by the thousands every day. Retirement takes the busy schedule off boomers’ hands, leaving lots of extra time.
Drugs are fun
Boredom, experimentation, and unresolved issues can draw a retired boomer toward drink and drugs. About 50 percent of boomers grew up actively experimenting with drugs in the great age of mind-alteration. Boredom, experimentation, and unresolved issues can draw a retired boomer toward altering their moods with substances. Drugs and alcohol helps them to cope with the aging process.
The prescription painkiller epidemic does not exclude older adults. Narcotic opioid drugs are given to the everyday aches and pains of older populations as frequently as they are to surgeries and traumatic injuries. Developing a tolerance and a dependency on opioid drugs is more likely in older populations who have chronic aches, and an ever-weakening immune system to fight the drugs’ effects.
Take a pill
“Adults over 65 fill more than twice as many prescriptions as those younger than 65”, the authors state. Raised in the era of pharmaceutical advertising, older adults have been trained to turn to a pill as relief for any problem.
Addiction and alcoholism don’t practice age discrimination. We know this disease can occur at any age. Our doors and hearts are open to anyone looking to change their lives. For more information on our intensive outpatient program for substance abuse, call (951) 775-4000.