Baby Boomers Continue Substance Use as They Age

Baby boomers appear to be carrying their substance abuse habits with them as they age, according to a behavioral health expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. David W. Oslin, MD, says binge drinking and prescription drug use are particular concerns in this population.

The implications are important for the substance abuse field, since there are 50 million people over age 65 in the United States, and people over 70 are the fastest growing group in the nation, he says. Despite the relatively common occurrence of substance use issues in baby boomers, health care providers often overlook them, Dr. Oslin observes. He adds that doctors and other health care professionals should routinely screen for and consider substance use when caring for older adults.

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the rate of binge drinking among people ages 65 and older was 8.2 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking was 2 percent. Among adults ages 50 to 64, the rate of current illicit drug use has increased during the past decade, the survey found.

The survey authors estimate the number of adults age 50 and older who will need alcohol or drug treatment will increase from 2.8 million in 2002-2006, to 5.7 million by 2020. Currently, 4 million older adults need substance use treatment, including 0.4 million needing treatment for illicit drugs, 3.2 million needing treatment for alcohol, and 0.4 million needing treatment for both.

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Quantum Units Continuing Education provides online CEU training's to licensed professional mental health therapists, counselors, social workers and nurses. Our blog provides updates in the field of news and research related to mental health and substance abuse treatment.