In the psychedelic ’60’s, it seemed everyone was “turning on”. No one worried about using marijuana or other drugs, as it seemed everyone was doing it.
Now, many those who came of age in that era are facing a real and rising problem of substance abuse. How big of a problem is this?
The National Institutes of Health became so concerned about the increasing numbers of boomer addicts that it issued a consumer alert this year, its first, on prescription and illicit drug abuse signs and dangers on its website NIHSeniorHealth.gov.
Boomers are visiting emergency rooms in record numbers for reactions to cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Some experts blame the pressures of this stage of life. Juan Harris is the clinical director f a boomer treatment unit at the Hanley Center, an addiction recovery center in Palm Beach, Fla. As reported by ABC News, Harris cites “divorce, loss of a job, loss of health, a lot of grief and loss issues” as factors that lead to boomer addiction. According to the news report, Harris finds that older drug users are motivated to break their habit and have a good success rate with treatment.
Besides the illicit drugs, we have another problem with dependency and overuse of legal prescription medications.The average man over 50 takes four prescription drugs. Boomers are frequently using anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants,and prescription pain medications all of which can lead to dependency and addiction.
It’s even more problematic for boomers to be addicted to these medications than it is for a younger person. Boomers don’t have the metabolism we did in our 20’s. We can’t get the drug processed out of our systems as fast as we did at a younger age. The same dose a younger person takes can have a much more long-term and potentially dangerous effect on a person in her 50’s.
Even scarier, the necessary prescription medications boomers take to control cholesterol and high blood pressure can be disrupted by the use of marijuana or other illegal substances. Age related chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes are worsened by long term substance abuse. There is a higher likelihood of a fatal outcome for an addicted senior.
What can we do about this?
If the experts tell us that treatment is often successful with older drug users, it makes sense to get treatment. It also makes sense to help a loved one with a substance abuse problem find and get treatment if that loved one is willing. Yes, that’s a big “if”. There are boomer-specific addiction treatment centers. Perhaps the first step is to do some research and find out what treatment is available for someone you care about.
A good support system, a qualified treatment center, and the willingness to work on overcoming chemical dependency can lead to success. If drug dependency is happening to someone you love, speak up. You might be a vital encouragement and help to that person in getting free from the abuse.
Until next time,
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