Baby boomers are individuals born in the early-to-mid 1940s to the late 1960s. When massive amounts of military members returned home after World War II, families started having large amounts of children as the United States began to flourish. As of April 2014, there were about 76.4 baby boomers in the world. The baby boomer generation is known for criticizing current millennials for their problems with substance abuse disorder, but studies show that they are actually more susceptible to form a substance abuse than any other generation. But why do people develop addictions more commonly if they are baby boomers?

Why Do People Suffer From Substance Abuse Disorder?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the reasons why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol in the first place can vary from person to person. “People use substances for a variety of reasons. It becomes drug abuse when people use illegal drugs or use legal drugs inappropriately. This includes the repeated use of drugs to produce pleasure, alleviate stress, and/or alter or avoid reality. It also includes using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed or using someone else’s prescription,” stated the NIDA. Biology, development, and environment are three components that can cause substance abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol in some people versus others, according to the NIDA.

  • Biology — An individual’s genes can constitute for about half of their risk for developing an addiction later on in life. Whether it’s the person’s ethnicity, gender, or other mental health problems, a person’s biology may result in substance abuse disorder.
  • Development — The developmental stages of a person’s life can increase their chances of forming a substance abuse later on in life. If an individual started consuming drugs or alcohol from a young age, it will transform the way their brain develops as they are growing into adults. This can lead to mental health problems, self-control issues, or engaging in other risky behaviors as adults.
  • Environment — Family, friends, quality of life, socioeconomic status, living conditions, and the people they surround themselves with can make up an individual’s environment. What an individual is around on a daily basis can greatly impact their chances of developing an addiction.

Who Suffers From Substance Abuse Disorder?

So, how does someone get addicted to drugs who is considered a baby boomer? One study found in the Journal of the American Medical Association described who becomes addicted to drugs in the first place. The study concluded that:

“Increases in alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV AUD in the US population and among subgroups, especially women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged, constitute a public health crisis. Taken together, these findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role.”

According to this study, there was a 106.7 percent increase over a 10-year period in the number of people who have formed alcohol disorders who were considered to be older American alcoholics, and adults 65 years and older who drank also elevated 22.4 percent, higher than the national average. This study was based on two face-to-face, identical surveys consisting of about 40,000 individuals who were 18 years and older in 2002-2003 and in 2012-2013. According to these statistics, baby boomers are becoming more and more likely to develop substance abuse disorders.

Different subgroups are more susceptible to forming addictions and substance abuse disorders, with “older” being the most prominent. According to an article from The Guardian, “A growing body of data from around the world suggests that substance misuse is increasing among those in their mid-50s and older,” and, “In 2015-16 more than half a million people aged between 55 and 74 were admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related issue.”

Why Baby Boomers?

The article from The Guardian explains the reason that baby boomers may develop substance abuse disorder:

“Writing in the British Medical Journal ahead of the publication of a forthcoming 2018 report, Rao and Ann Roche – director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University in Australia – argue that more needs to be done to tackle the problem. But, Rao warns, the issue goes beyond drinking. “It is not just about alcohol, it is also about illicit drugs such as cannabis, and it is also about commonly prescribed medications such as opioid painkillers,” he said. “It is not just a problem in the UK, it is an international problem.” Indeed, the authors write, “In Australia, the largest percentage increase in drug misuse between 2013 and 2016 was among people aged 60 and over, with this age group mainly misusing prescription drugs.” Those over the age of 50, they add, have higher rates of illicit drug misuse, particularly cannabis, than younger Australians.”

In other words, older people are misusing their prescription opioid painkillers, resulting in substance abuse. Some of the reasons for baby boomer substance abuse include:

  • Taking Medications Incorrectly — If people develop mental health issues as they get older, this may cause them to slip in taking their prescription medications correctly. If they take too high of a dose or more quantity of a dose that was originally prescribed to them, they may form a substance abuse disorder as a result.
  • More Ailments — The more mental or physical health problems that a person has wrong with them, usually, the more medication they will get prescribed to help solve them. Baby boomers may be prescribed a large quantity of medications, and this could trigger substance abuse for them down the road.
  • Coping with Depression — Many things happen in a baby boomer’s life as they grow older that could make them fall into a depression. Their children and grandchildren may relocate away from them, they have more time to reflect back on their lives, and the reality of getting older might start to sink in. Drugs and alcohol may be used by baby boomers as they get older to cope with their life.
  • Retirement — Once baby boomers hit retirement, they experience a completely different way of life from what they’ve been used to. Not working anymore can also be the equivalent of losing a loved one, for some people. Retiring from a job can leave a baby boomer feeling empty, especially because of the boredom that comes along with it.
  • Financial Problems — From medical bills to living on a fixed income, financial problems may arise when an individual retires. This can add stress to a baby boomer’s life, which may cause them to resort to drugs or alcohol to cope.
  • Loss of Loved Ones — As individuals get older, the more they have to watch their loved ones go. The death of loved ones, from family members to friends to spouses, can be completely devastating to an older person.

How Can Baby Boomers Get Help For Substance Abuse Disorder?

If you are a loved one of a baby boomer and you are concerned about them developing a substance abuse problem, educate yourself on the possible signs and symptoms of this issue forming. Occasionally check in on your loved one’s medications to see if they are consuming everything correctly, and be on the lookout for any unusual behaviors that they might be experiencing. If you do feel that your loved one has a substance abuse disorder, be sure to get help right away.

For more information about finding different treatment options for your loved one, call Stop Your Addiction toll-free today. Stop Your Addiction will help you create drug recovery programs that are suited to your individual needs. Make the first step to long-term sobriety by calling Stop Your Addiction today!