Baby boomers have become addicted to drugs at an alarming rate.
The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released in 2012, found the rate of illicit drug use cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana, heroin had tripled among those 55 to 59 and nearly doubled among those 50 to 54, from 2002 to 2011. About 6 percent of these groups had used illicit drugs, the survey found.
The bigger issue of boomers addictions, however, relates to alcohol and prescription drugs. Over the past decade, the number of boomers being treated for prescription drug abuse at Florida treatment centers has skyrocketed. In 2001, 15 percent of those being treated were boomers, jumping to 30 percent by 2011. Boomers comprise about 22 percent of the states population.
Gary Silverman is an addiction therapist at South Miami Hospitals Addiction Treatment Center. Historically, alcohol abuse has been the biggest issue for boomers, he said, but increasingly the center is seeing more cases of prescription drug addictions.
The economy is not good, Silverman said. Sometimes theyre forced into early retirement. Social Security, [they] might not be eligible for it yet, so theres a lot of stressors. A lot of people are going to their doctors and complaining about tension headaches, migraines, anxiety.
In April 2010, the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach, which treats substance abuse addictions among all people, created a program just for boomers.
They didnt really identify with the older, older adults 75, 78 and older, said Juan Harris, the clinical director of the boomer and older adult programs at the Hanley Center.
He says boomers grew up during a time when drug use was a big part of the culture.
I still find some are romanticizing about the music and the old days, and quite a few of them are still smoking pot, said Harris.
Marijuana, however, is much stronger today than when boomers came of age, as its now being grown hydroponically. In addition, synthetic marijuana, also know as K2 and Spice, is made of chemical-engineered compounds, which makes it more potent.
Alcohol, however, is still the biggest culprit, followed by legal drugs like sleeping pills and painkillers, substance abuse experts says. Since its boomer program began, the Hanley Center has treated more than 500 patients.
One 56-year-old woman, who asked to be called Brittney, had the seeds of her prescription drug addiction planted when she learned she had pre-cancerous lesions on her liver. She started getting anxiety attacks; her family doctor prescribed Klonopin, a drug used to control seizures and panic attacks.
She was a recovering alcoholic and had been sober for 10 years. The drug helped with her anxiety, but after eight years she said she began to experience nasty side effects.
I was just plummeting into more and more depression, said Brittney, who learned from her doctor that she was addicted to Klonopin.
She was shocked.
Id been in Alcoholics Anonymous for so long, and I was quite sure that my doctor would never have put me in harms way, she said.
She wanted to get off Klonopin cold turkey, but her doctor recommended she be weaned off the drug at a clinic. That process caused her to have severe insomnia, leading the clinic doctors to give her Ambien to help her sleep.