Addicts get older, too

By Ann Griswold • Published: August 1st, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Children of baby boomers like to joke about their parents’ wild times back in “their day,” when illicit drug use was in and respect for authority was out. But don’t speak too soon… many baby boomers have decided “their day” isn’t over yet.

Though the disco balls of the 1960s have long burned out, many baby boomers are still lighting up. A recent survey finds that more than four percent of adults ages fifty to fifty-nine continue to toke marijuana, shoot heroin and snort cocaine at least once a year.

Illicit drug use was more rampant among the flower children of the 1960s and ’70s than any other generation. That hasn’t changed: Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that drug use among the elderly rose dramatically when flower children joined the ranks of the middle-aged. The scientists looked at emergency room records from 1995 to 2002 and discovered a two-hundred-forty percent increase in cocaine use, a nearly five-hundred percent increase in marijuana use and a seven-hundred percent spike in cocaine use among patients older than fifty-five. Experts predict that more than four million older adults will seek treatment for drug abuse by 2020.

Scientists are most concerned about the impact of drug use on the aging body. As certain organs get older, drugs aren’t metabolized as efficiently as they once were. Sooner or later, grandma or grandpa will have to lay down the peace pipe or face the consequences.