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Baby boomers still getting high, NIH says


Baby boomers often talk romantically about their days of drug experimentation in the Woodstock era.

But statistics from the National Institute of Health (NIH) show that many boomers haven't put their partying days behind them. So much so, in fact, that addiction is becoming an alarming trend among people in their 50s and early 60s. Earlier this year, the NIH issued a consumer alert on its NIH Senior Health website that detailed the signs and symptoms of drug abuse--both from prescription and illicit substances.

What's in that medicine cabinet?

The most recent research from the NIH, published in 2010, shows that about 2.4 million boomers admitted to abusing prescription or illegal drugs in the past month. The statistics are alarming given the fact that, just eight years ago in 2002, that number was three times less.

Recent research from Nova Southeastern University in Florida also showed that the number of substance abuse treatment program admissions for boomer-age people went up about 37 percent from 2001 and 2011. The drug of choice for most patients? Sedatives, such as Valium and Xanax.

And while these types of increases must be regarded with the knowledge that boomers make up such a large percentage of the population--there are about 79 million of them--experts say we should be taking the problem seriously:

"We can't ignore that older adults are using harder substances, that we are seeing increases in emergency room visits where people present with drug abuse," said Dr. Gayathri Dowling from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "But when we think about these addictions, we tend to think about younger people. Nobody thinks to ask older people about substance abuse, and that includes their physicians."

A bundle of risk factors and reasons

Why are boomers engaging in the same kind of behavior mostly expected from young people? Many factors seem to be involved. The recent economic recession has put a strain on many of them, thousands of whom have lost their jobs or homes. But experts also note that boomers were young during a time when the drug culture all but encouraged them to abuse substances. Experimenting at a young age increases the risk for addiction later in life, notes Jim Hall, director of Nova's Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse.

Source: Forbes
Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch