Drug And Alcohol Abuse Among Baby Boomers: Aging Adults At Increased Risk Of Substance Use, Overdose

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Drug And Alcohol Abuse Among Baby Boomers: Aging Adults Increasing Engage In Substance Use, Risk Overdose

Recent research shows that Baby Boomers and older adults are increasingly engaging in drug and alcohol abuse and are a heightened risk for suffering a fatal opioid overdose.

According to a new study, persons born from 1947-1964 have a significantly higher risk of overdose death from both painkillers and heroin. For the study, researchers from Columbia University examined data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ multiple death cause files for 1999-2014 to conduct an age analysis of drug overdose mortality.

The authors concluded:

“Individuals born between 1947 and 1964…are particularly afflicted by the opioid epidemic. Intervention programs are needed to reduce the excess overdose mortality in these specific demographic groups.”

Another recent study found that while alcohol abuse was rising across all demographics, some groups were more likely to engage in alcohol misuse than others – namely, women, the poor, minorities, and the ever-increasing older adult population, whose use spiked by nearly 107% in just over a decade.

This study was based on twin national representative surveys of 40,000 people over the age of 18 from 2002-2003 and 2012-2013, and found, with few exceptions, increases for 12-month alcohol use (11.2%), high-risk drinking (29.9%), and alcohol use disorder (49.4%) for the total U.S. population.

The authors concluded:

“Increases in alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV AUD in the US population and among subgroups, especially women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged, constitute a public health crisis.”


In a book published last year entitled “Not As Prescribed: Recognizing and Facing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Older Adults,” author Dr. Harry Haroutunian cites several reasons for the increase in substance abuse among older people. These include chronic pain and loneliness, as well as other stressors of aging, such as boredom, health problems, financial troubles, grief, and loss of identity or freedom.

He also notes that about half of those who grew up in the baby boomer generation engaged in some experimentation with illegal drugs and that these adults have also been conditioned to use pharmaceuticals for relief from many chronic conditions.




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