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Baby Boomers Still Doing Drugs as Seniors
Date:1/8/2010

said they had used drugs other than pot or prescription-like medications, including 0.5 percent for cocaine, 0.1 percent for hallucinogens and 0.1 percent for heroin.

In the period 2002-06, the annual average number of people over the age of 50 using illicit drugs was 2.8 million.

Although "harder" drugs such as crystal meth and cocaine aren't the main offenders in this demographic, drug use among older, generally more frail, individuals does bring special concerns.

"This population tends to have other health problems, especially chronic health problems," Delany explained. "And as we age we don't metabolize drugs the same way."

Also, older people with a substance-abuse diagnosis are much more at risk of suicide, said Dr. David Schlager, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a psychiatrist with Lone Star Circle of Care, which has health clinics throughout Texas.

Finding appropriate treatments for this group adds more potential complications.

"We don't really have data and research for the most effective treatments for older individuals," said Jeffrey Parsons, chair of psychology at Hunter College in New York City. "Are existing programs effective or do we need to start from scratch?"

And the two different groups of older drug users -- those with new addictions and those with long-term issues -- may need different treatments, he added.

Not to mention the inherent limitations in drug abuse treatment and services as they currently stand. "The treatment is not terrible advanced," Schlager noted.

On the other hand, Schlager said, Baby Boomers may be in a better position both to access what services there are and to pay for them.

More information

Visit the U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration
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