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Baby Boomers in crisis

A recent report released by the Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration raises a variety of grave considerations about fifty-something Americans.

The report documented a sharp increase in the proportion of older Americans being treated for addiction problems including, alcohol, marijuana, heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs. The study tracked the proportion of substance and alcohol treatment admissions involving older Americans, aged 50 or older, which nearly doubled between 1992 and 2008.

The findings revealed that heroin abuse more than doubled, cocaine use quadrupled, prescription drug use tripled and marijuana use doubled. Admissions primarily related to alcohol abuse decreased by 24 percent during the same time period. Admissions for multiple substance disorders have nearly tripled between 1992 and 2008.

While the study showed that 75 percent of all older Americans treatment admissions had initiated use of their primary substance by age 25, an increasing proportion of admissions involved substances that had only been initiated within five years prior to admission. The implications of these developments may add to the expected health care crisis once Baby Boomers retire in significant numbers over the next 10-20 years.

To compound health care issues around older Americans, many older Americans that are abusing alcohol or other substances my also be at risk of dangerous interactions with their prescribed medications. Some speculate that although government planners are not acting to prevent a "baby boomer" driven crisis, many boomers are aware of the impending crisis and some are dealing with it in an unhealthy manner.

A convergence of other factors may have added to the angst that some boomers aren't handling in adaptive ways. Wages for middleclass Americans have been stagnant for sometime which has limited the ability to save for retirement.

In Chinese and most other Asian cultures, the elderly occupy a position of great respect. The notion of Nursing Homes is still an alien idea. In stark contrast, in ancient times, it is said that elderly Eskimos, would voluntarily disappear on an ice floe once they could no longer make a contribution to the village. Where will elderly Americans find themselves in twenty years; occupying a position of respect and support, or one that is much less palatable? Remember, all kids count.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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