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Levels of addiction among baby boomers on the rise

by AirTalk®

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How do the needs of baby boomer addicts compare to those of younger addicts? PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

For the baby boomer generation, being “born to be wild,” as the freewheeling Steppenwolf 1960s anthem declares, is a double-edged sword when it comes to addiction.

A Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report from September 2011 says an aging baby boomer generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 - is leading to increased levels of addiction among adults over 50, requiring double the availability of treatment services by 2020. For those aged 50 to 59, the rate of illicit drug use, including prescription drug use, increased from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 5.8 percent in 2010, according to the study.

Addiction experts say painkillers and sedatives such as Xanax and Ativan are top categories of abused drugs among middle aged and elderly Americans, with both genetic and environmental triggers such as financial stress, loneliness, age-related pain and isolation jumpstarting addictive behavior. Add to that addiction treatment not covered by Medicare and the difficulties of detoxing older patients.

How do the needs of baby boomer addicts differ from younger addicts when it comes to treatment and recovery? If you’ve battled addiction as a baby boomer, what were the challenges involved?


Dr. Westley Clark, M.D., director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Dr. Lynn Webster, M.D., a longtime addiction specialist and medical director of CRI Lifetree Clinical Research, a clinical research facility specializing in drug development for addiction and pain in Salt Lake City, Utah

Dr. Barbara Krantz, M.D., medical director of the Hanley Center, a nonprofit addiction recovery center in West Palm Beach, Florida

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