Baby Boomers Increasingly Seeking Addiction Treatment
Age isn’t slowing down the Baby Boomer generation. Seniors these days are more active than ever thanks to better health technology and multiple activities geared specifically for their generation. People are living longer and using medications to enhance their lives and allowing their bodies to enjoy all the things that their minds want to do.
But as the number of senior-age boomers increase, so does their risk of drug or alcohol addiction. With an increasing number of better medications for aging ailments comes the risk of addiction to the very medicines that aid them. Other seniors who never received treatment for a drug or alcohol problem from their youth are bringing those problems into their senior years. Without help, their addictions only grow and then interfere with other medications needed for common aging ailments.
This generation, raised in a time before sharing triumphs and tragedies on social media networks, is not as comfortable disclosing their addiction or admitting that they have a problem. The good news is that more seniors are coming forward for treatment. The bad news is that the numbers of seniors who need treatment is escalating rapidly.
As Baby Boomers move into their senior years, treatment centers are seeing a huge rate of increase in patients. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly twice as many seniors reported using illicit drugs annually in 2007 as did those polled in 2002.
In a 2001 study, treatment centers admitted 143,000 seniors, over age 50, for drug addiction. By 2005, that number had risen to 184,400. SAMHSA estimates that 4.4 million seniors will become addicted to alcohol or drugs by the year 2020.
The root of many of these addictions started long before retirement. For many of them, use started early and abuse started later. Seventy-nine percent of adults polled said that they first used illicit drugs or alcohol before they were 25 years old. However, almost half (40 percent) of respondents said that they didn’t start abusing these substances until after they turned 48 years old.
Commercials during the evening news remind us that the generation moving into their seniors won’t give in to aging ailments without a fight. Medications for everything from osteoporosis, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and high blood pressure are helping these adults to keep enjoying active lives.
The increase in seniors coming forward with addictions is from multiple avenues. Some are anxious about the unstable economy and retirement. Others settle into retirement and become bored, depressed, or restless. Others rely on multiple drugs to help cure or ease their adjustment into an age where they finally won’t cringe at being called grandpa or grandma.
Doctors and family members should watch for co-occurring psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that might be intertwined with the addiction. Both addictions and disorders would need treatment for the individual to re-build a mentally and physically healthy lifestyle.
Independent baby boomers need support and motivation to help them fight their substance abuse. They need encouragement to admit they have a problem and compassion to help them seek treatment.