Drug Addiction, Facts About Addiction, Families & Addiction, Substance Abuse  |  June 22, 2016

If you were born between the years 1946 and 1964 – you’re a member of the baby boom generation.

Until recently, Boomers were the largest generation in the history of the planet… now surpassed in size by the generation they gave birth to – the Millennials. 

As they age – Boomers are facing new challenges… challenges involving chronic pain and in many cases loneliness, despair, anxiety and depression.

With these changes has come an alarming rise in addiction. Drug and alcohol abuse in this age group is increasing at one of the fastest rates in America.

So what exactly is happening?

Once again, we’re forced to examine medical care in the U.S. to find at least part of the answer.

What does someone with chronic pain or pain, depression and/or anxiety often do?  They go to a doctor for help.

And how do too many physicians in America treat these patients?

With prescription meds that numb physical and emotional pain.  Sadly, the meds they choose are some of the most addictive on earth.

What’s more, it’s estimated that at least 50% of the Baby Boom generation grew up experimenting with illegal drugs – so they enter this new stage of their lives with a degree of familiarity with drug use.  In fact, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study recently found that the rate of current illicit drug use among people in their 50s more than doubled recently, indicating that this generation may in fact be more likely than previous generations to comfortably turn to drugs as older adults.

Look.  It’s a well established fact that, beginning in the 1990s, the big pharmaceutical companies, and their various shadow groups, began aggressively promoting the use of a new class of opioid painkillers.

Incredibly, they did it knowing that these painkillers were not only highly profitable – but extremely dangerous to human health.

Worse still – conventional doctors did exactly as the drug companies suggested.  They wrote prescriptions for these drugs by the hundreds of millions.

And from 1998 to the present, the number of people addicted to opioid painkillers jumped nearly 500%.

What’s the biggest single market for these drugs?  People 50 years of age or older.  Baby boomers…

Add antidepressants, anxiety meds (each year, doctors write 17 million tranquilizer prescriptions for older adults) and alcohol to the mix and one has the ingredients of the full-fledged public health crisis we see today.

Is the Baby Boom generation just more hedonistic than prior generations – with a stronger desire to get high?

Health experts say no.  Most are following their doctor’s orders, taking medications as prescribed, while some have been victimized by polypharmacy (taking multiple medications to help with various health issues) - the result of seeing multiple doctors who don’t talk to each other.

The solution?  It all starts with the medical community.  Established physicians and physician organizations need to do a much better job of finding safe and effective non-pharmaceutical options for treating disease.  And new physicians need the training and the awareness to avoid the dangerous prescribing traps of their predecessors.  

Photo credit: dacian dorca-street photographie via Foter.com / CC BY