"Rolling Stones Generation" Still Doing Drugs

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Baby Boomers - those born between 1946 and 1964 - are using drugs in far greater numbers than their parents' generation, according to a new report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The Report

Data from nearly 20,000 adults born between 1946 and 1964 shows that almost 5% of Baby Boomers in the U.S. are abusing drugs. The data, collected from 2006-2008, showed a significant increase over previous figures for the 50+ age group.

Key Findings:

  • Nearly 4.3 million Americans over the age of 50 are engaging in illicit drug use, compared to 2.8 million annually from 2002-2006.
  • Men are more likely to smoke marijuana than engage in prescription drug abuse, while women are about equally likely to engage in both behaviors.
  • More than twice as many men than women have used marijuana in the previous year.
  • Marijuana was common among those aged 50-59, while prescription drug abuse was more likely in those 65 or older.
  • Marijuana and prescription drugs were by far the most abused, with less than 1% of respondents acknowledging use of other drugs like cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin.

What Does This Mean?

Today's adults are far more likely to be abusing drugs than their parents' generation, likely because they began using drugs at a younger age and never completely stopped. According to the report, the demand for treatment services is expected to double by 2020 as a result of this increase in older drug abusers. Drug abuse among older individuals raises a number of other concerns as well: people in this age group are likely to have other chronic health conditions, they are at a greater risk of suicide, and it is not really known whether existing treatment programs are effective for older individuals. However, they are also more likely to be able to access and afford addiction treatment than their younger counterparts.

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