Have You Talked to Your Parents About Drugs? The Startling Rise of Baby Boomer Drug Abuse

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, drug abuse rates are rising rapidly among Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomer generation of Americans who were born in the years following World War II extends from 1946 to 1964 and includes people who are currently between the ages of 63 and 49. Overall, the Baby Boomers comprise a large segment of the United States population, given that more than 75 million people were born during that period. The fact that they are increasingly using drugs provides reason to be worried about the impact this could have on the future of the country. The most alarming piece of information in the WLRN report was that the 55-59 age group is the one which is experiencing the most significant rise in drug abuse rates. The reasons for this, however, are not necessarily what you might assume.

Given that the Baby Boomers were the generation which was in its teens and twenties during the 1960s and 1970s, when drug use exploded among the American youth, it would be natural to expect that this is the major reason why boomers are now using drugs more. Indeed, many do smoke pot as an old habit which persists from the days when they were young. Other street drugs are common, as evidenced by the fact that the number of emergency room admissions for cocaine abuse among South Florida baby boomers has been steadily increasing, whereas it has been on the decline for the general population since 2006. Street drugs are not, however, the primary reason which is driving the rates of boomer drug abuse.

The number of baby boomers who are receiving treatment for addiction to prescription drugs has exploded since 2001, when 15 percent of those in treatment were members of the boomer generation as compared with 30 percent now. Following alcohol, prescription drugs are the most common reason why boomers end up in rehab, with sleeping pills and opiate painkillers being the two most prevalent drugs of addiction.

What is driving the increase in baby boomer drug addiction?

Given that prescription drugs are actually the leading drugs of addiction among baby boomers, it is evident that the rising tide of addiction among that generation of Americans is not necessarily a result of their drug use during youth. More commonly, what is happening is that one of these people goes into see his or her doctor with a complaint such as insomnia, back pain or anxiety, and is walking out with a prescription for Ambien, Vicodin or Oxycontin, or Klonopin. These and similar drugs are highly addictive and susceptible to abuse, and patients are at great risk of developing a dependence. A doctor from a local addiction treatment center is quoted in the PBS story as saying that most physicians receive very little training on the subject of substance abuse and addiction, and that they very often use prescriptions as an easy solution for resolving a patient’s symptoms, even if it is not actually a treatment.

Compounding the problem is the aggressive marketing engaged in by drug companies — most of which rake in annual revenues in the tens of billions of dollars — and the way that the pharmaceutical industry lavishes doctors with gifts such as free trips to “medical conferences” in Hawaii and other exotic locales as a way to compel them into helping to sell the drugs. The doctors stand to make more money by writing quick prescriptions so that they can spend less time with each patient; the drug companies stand to make massive profits; and the patients very often wind up addicted.

The Facts On Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is sweeping the nation. It affects people from all walks of life and this epidemic is growing. A study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control showed that visits to the ER that were related to the misuse of prescription pain relievers more than double between 2004 and 2008. Unfortunately, teens make up a great portion of this number.

In fact, a recent survey taken by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that 6,000 Americans a day begin to abuse prescription drugs. More than 1/3 of these new abusers are under the age of 18.

Many people believe that prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs because doctors prescribe them. This may be a reason why kids try them in the first place. Another reason is that they are fairly easy to get a hold of, as they are commonly found in most people’s homes in America.

Abuse of Prescription Drugs May Lead to Heroin Use

Many heroin addicts have reported that they turned to heroin when the prescription painkillers became too expensive to support their habit. As with all drugs, a tolerance begins to build over time with frequent use and the addict has to take more and more of the drug to feel the desired effects. This can become very expensive with prescription drugs. Someone addicted to prescription painkillers may need to take around six or seven pills per day in order to keep their high. Surprisingly, this same amount of pills can be sold for a gram of heroin, which can supply an addict with a high for three to four days.

A recent change in the formula of the painkiller Oxycontin leaves the pills crush-proof, and therefore difficult for abusers to snort or inject. This also has many painkiller addicts turning to heroin, as the pills are no longer an option. In fact, a study of more than 2,500 people with opioid dependence found a 17 percent drop in Oxycontin abuse with the 2010 arrival of the new formula. During the same time period, heroin abuse doubled. This may seem a bit radical for a teen to become involved in, but it is a very real possibility in the future if he stays down this road.

Why Teens Make Up Such A Large Percentage

Kids are often confronted by many challenges during their teenage years. These challenges may include problems at home, social acceptance and peer pressure. Peer pressure may take place at school as well as in their own homes by way of the Internet. Digital peer pressure is something that is sweeping the nation and affecting teens tremendously.

With the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace, there is an overload of photos and conversations based with partying and hooking up being the main topic. By talking with your teens about these topics and keeping them busy with extracurricular activities, they may pass on the drugs for a more promising future.

Drug Abuse and the Gender Gap

Usage rates for prescription drugs continue to rise with nearly 3 in 5 Americans taking prescription drugs including antidepressants and opioids.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that prescription drug usage among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier and it was rising at a faster rate than ever before. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent.

Effects of Gender on Addiction

It is no surprise then that the non-medical use of prescription drugs including painkillers, tranquilizers, and sedatives continue to be a growing problem in the United States. Statistics show men abuse prescription drugs at a higher rate than women, however, the gap between the genders is narrowing. Females age 12 to 17 are less likely to take abuse prescription drug and abuse and distribution is much higher in males of the same age range, according to a recent government study on Gender Medicine. The same report shows that young adult females show a higher percentage rate of addiction to cocaine and prescription drugs even though males in that age group abuse those drugs more frequently and take them in larger amounts.

Disturbingly, more recent statistics show that overdose deaths among young women are increasing, especially those who become addicted to opioids. The CDC Vital Signs reported that deaths from opioid overdose among women have increased 400 percent since 1999. By comparison, young men of the same age group suffered fatal opioid overdoses by approximately 265 percent in that same time frame. The CDC has estimated that as many as 18 women in the United States die every day from an opioid drug overdose, most of which were obtained by prescription.

To continue the disturbing downtrend of drug abuse according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are less likely to receive adequate treatment for substance abuse than men. Studies show that women are less likely than men to be placed in a specialized but are often treated by primary care providers or through mental health programs instead. Women also face more obstacles that are an impediment to their treatment, such as lower incomes, the possibility of pregnancy, and the need for childcare. In addition, women show more of a tendency to hide their substance abuse for a variety of reason including fear of social stigma, loss of child custody, or repercussions from a partner or spouse.

In the past, studies in drug addiction was from a male perspective for both males and females and drug abuse prevention programs and rehab facilities were designed with an emphasis on the needs of males. In comparison, outreach campaigns, preventive education, and drug rehab today is tailored to address the needs of both men and women as the scientific and medical community become more informed about how and why these addiction patterns occur in both men and women.

With gender roles playing a role in addiction, Gender-specific treatment programs provide a respite from the social stressors of everyday life. Patients can focus on their recovery without the distraction of the opposite sex. Studies show that both men and women feel more comfortable communicating about issues like sexuality, social prejudice, and domestic abuse with members of their own gender.

Both men and women suffering from opiod addiction, both can benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation programs that focus on the full range of care required to be free from addiction. These programs take a patient from detox to residential treatment, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, and transitional living. Effective treatment therapies include:

  • Fitness training
  • Experimental and holistic modalities
  • Follow up programs
  • Family or marriage counseling
  • Nutritional counceling

Having the support of a highly trained, multidisciplinary staff can help individuals of both genders recover from the disease of addiction and regain hope for the future.

According to a SAMHSA report in 2014, men are more likely than women to use all types of illegal drugs that result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths. These drugs include marijuana (according to federal law) and the misuse of prescription drugs. Men in most age groups have a higher rate of use and dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women. However, women are just as likely as men to become addicted but are more likely to become addicted to prescription drugs and illegal drugs. Women are also more susceptible to craving and relapse which are key phases of the addiction cycle.

Going even further in their research SAMHSA found that women of color may face other unique issues with regard to drug use and treatment needs. For example, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native women are more likely than women of other racial and ethnic groups to be victims of rape, physical violence, and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime-issues that are risk factors for substance use and should be addressed during treatment.

In addition to drug abuse be affected by personality traits, research has shown that in most instances women use drugs differently, respond to drugs differently, and often have unique obstacles that prevent them from receiving effective treatment. Some of these obstacles being as simple as not being able to find child care or being prescribed treatment that has not been adequately tested on women.

Researchers continue to study to learn more about the differing factors that attribute to drug addiction in males and females. As they are able to effectively identify these factors, the medical community more able to develop programs to increase an individual’s chance of breaking free from addictive lifestyles.

They are learning that the physical and mental differences of both men and women contribute how they are introduced abuse an individual’s ability to be successful in a treatment program

In a July 2016 article CNN reported that:

“according to a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, worldwide, drug use has remained steady over the past four years,. However, researchers found that heroin use in the United States is up 145% since 2007.”

One in 20 adults — roughly a quarter of a billion people between ages 15 and 64 — used at least one illegal or improperly used drug in 2014, according to the World Drug Report 2016. Though the numbers have not grown in proportion to the global population, new trends have developed, including increased sales in anonymous online marketplaces.

The U.N. researchers also reported gender differences in drug use. Men are three times more likely than women to use cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines, while women are more likely to take opioids and tranquilizers for non-medical purposes.