Illicit Drug Use and the Baby Boomer Generation

Posted December 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Drug abuse is not just a problem in America, as recent reports out of the United Kingdom prove.

According to the U.K.’s Health and Social Care Information Center, hospital treatment has been provided for 888 people over the age of 65 for illicit drug abuse within the country over the past few years. Nearly half of those individuals were 75 years of age and over.

The “baby boomer” generation is no stranger to its fair share of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and amphetamines, especially considering many of these drugs rose to popularity during the 1960’s, when these individuals were anywhere between their late teenage years and their late twenties. Now, however, as this generation has reached elderly status, the same type of drug abuse behaviors can be much more dangerous than when they were younger.

Dangers of Drug Use in Elderly Individuals

Most of the time, we hear about how elderly individuals are abusing prescription drugs – ones that they have received from a doctor for conditions such as arthritis, muscular pain, joint troubles, and more. However, illicit drug use is slowly growing in popularity amongst this crowd, and the dangers are becoming very real.

For example, a baby boomer that used to abuse marijuana or speed in the 60’s and 70’s is not going to physically process those drugs in the same way during their elderly years. Their tolerance levels will be different, their bodies are not as resilient as they used to be, and the potential for internal and psychological damage is increased.

In addition, those elderly individuals that abuse these kinds of illicit drugs can also run the risk of excess physical and psychological harm if they are also using other substances. This can include anything from an over-the-counter medication to a prescription drug that was given to them for an existing condition. As a result, they might experience side effects that are different than those they used to experience when they were younger and using.

The Future for Baby Boomers

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that in 2011, 6.2% of those between the ages of 50-59 were using illicit drugs – a big jump from the 2.7% reported between 2002-2009. Despite many elderly individuals working towards ending their substance abuse habits, there are still many of them who are continuing to use despite the many dangers. Only time will be able to tell how significant this issue is, and if there will be a day where a more positive outcome can be reported.

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