It’s probably not a surprise at this point that boomers do drugs. A new study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found a “dramatic rise” in the proportion of people over 50 admitted to substance abuse clinics between 1992 and 2008.
Over 12 percent of admissions in 2008 were of people 50 or older, up from 6.6 percent in 1992. Marijuana may be considered boomers’ drug of choice, but abuse is treated far less than for other drugs. Just 2.9 percent of admissions were for marijuana abuse. Sixteen percent of admissions were for heroin abuse, more than double the rate in 1992, but cocaine saw the greatest increase in abuse; 11.4 percent of admissions were to treat cocaine abuse, four times the 1992 rate of 2.9 percent. Prescription drug abuse accounted for 3.5 percent of admissions.
Alcohol is still the real drug of choice for the over-50 set, but admissions treating it are falling. In 2008, just under 60 percent of admissions were to treat alcohol abuse, down from 84.6 percent in 1992.
Another troubling trend is the increase in people abusing multiple substances. Almost 40 percent of people over 50 admitted for treatment in 2008 abused more than one drug, up from 13.7 percent in 1992. And the road to recovery may be difficult. Over three-quarters of older American admitted for treatment began using their “primary substance” before they were 25. The report noted, though, that an increasing proportion of admissions began within five years of the patient taking up their drug. In 2008, 26.2 percent of users admitted for cocaine abuse began taking it within 5 years of their admission, followed by 25.8 percent of people who abused prescription drugs.