Have You Talked to Your Parents About Drugs? The Startling Rise of Baby Boomer Drug Abuse

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, drug abuse rates are rising rapidly among Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomer generation of Americans who were born in the years following World War II extends from 1946 to 1964 and includes people who are currently between the ages of 63 and 49. Overall, the Baby Boomers comprise a large segment of the United States population, given that more than 75 million people were born during that period. The fact that they are increasingly using drugs provides reason to be worried about the impact this could have on the future of the country. The most alarming piece of information in the WLRN report was that the 55-59 age group is the one which is experiencing the most significant rise in drug abuse rates. The reasons for this, however, are not necessarily what you might assume.

Given that the Baby Boomers were the generation which was in its teens and twenties during the 1960s and 1970s, when drug use exploded among the American youth, it would be natural to expect that this is the major reason why boomers are now using drugs more. Indeed, many do smoke pot as an old habit which persists from the days when they were young. Other street drugs are common, as evidenced by the fact that the number of emergency room admissions for cocaine abuse among South Florida baby boomers has been steadily increasing, whereas it has been on the decline for the general population since 2006. Street drugs are not, however, the primary reason which is driving the rates of boomer drug abuse.

The number of baby boomers who are receiving treatment for addiction to prescription drugs has exploded since 2001, when 15 percent of those in treatment were members of the boomer generation as compared with 30 percent now. Following alcohol, prescription drugs are the most common reason why boomers end up in rehab, with sleeping pills and opiate painkillers being the two most prevalent drugs of addiction.

What is driving the increase in baby boomer drug addiction?

Given that prescription drugs are actually the leading drugs of addiction among baby boomers, it is evident that the rising tide of addiction among that generation of Americans is not necessarily a result of their drug use during youth. More commonly, what is happening is that one of these people goes into see his or her doctor with a complaint such as insomnia, back pain or anxiety, and is walking out with a prescription for Ambien, Vicodin or Oxycontin, or Klonopin. These and similar drugs are highly addictive and susceptible to abuse, and patients are at great risk of developing a dependence. A doctor from a local addiction treatment center is quoted in the PBS story as saying that most physicians receive very little training on the subject of substance abuse and addiction, and that they very often use prescriptions as an easy solution for resolving a patient’s symptoms, even if it is not actually a treatment.

Compounding the problem is the aggressive marketing engaged in by drug companies — most of which rake in annual revenues in the tens of billions of dollars — and the way that the pharmaceutical industry lavishes doctors with gifts such as free trips to “medical conferences” in Hawaii and other exotic locales as a way to compel them into helping to sell the drugs. The doctors stand to make more money by writing quick prescriptions so that they can spend less time with each patient; the drug companies stand to make massive profits; and the patients very often wind up addicted.

Drug Abuse and the Gender Gap

Usage rates for prescription drugs continue to rise with nearly 3 in 5 Americans taking prescription drugs including antidepressants and opioids.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that prescription drug usage among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier and it was rising at a faster rate than ever before. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent.

Effects of Gender on Addiction

It is no surprise then that the non-medical use of prescription drugs including painkillers, tranquilizers, and sedatives continue to be a growing problem in the United States. Statistics show men abuse prescription drugs at a higher rate than women, however, the gap between the genders is narrowing. Females age 12 to 17 are less likely to take abuse prescription drug and abuse and distribution is much higher in males of the same age range, according to a recent government study on Gender Medicine. The same report shows that young adult females show a higher percentage rate of addiction to cocaine and prescription drugs even though males in that age group abuse those drugs more frequently and take them in larger amounts.

Disturbingly, more recent statistics show that overdose deaths among young women are increasing, especially those who become addicted to opioids. The CDC Vital Signs reported that deaths from opioid overdose among women have increased 400 percent since 1999. By comparison, young men of the same age group suffered fatal opioid overdoses by approximately 265 percent in that same time frame. The CDC has estimated that as many as 18 women in the United States die every day from an opioid drug overdose, most of which were obtained by prescription.

To continue the disturbing downtrend of drug abuse according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are less likely to receive adequate treatment for substance abuse than men. Studies show that women are less likely than men to be placed in a specialized but are often treated by primary care providers or through mental health programs instead. Women also face more obstacles that are an impediment to their treatment, such as lower incomes, the possibility of pregnancy, and the need for childcare. In addition, women show more of a tendency to hide their substance abuse for a variety of reason including fear of social stigma, loss of child custody, or repercussions from a partner or spouse.

In the past, studies in drug addiction was from a male perspective for both males and females and drug abuse prevention programs and rehab facilities were designed with an emphasis on the needs of males. In comparison, outreach campaigns, preventive education, and drug rehab today is tailored to address the needs of both men and women as the scientific and medical community become more informed about how and why these addiction patterns occur in both men and women.

With gender roles playing a role in addiction, Gender-specific treatment programs provide a respite from the social stressors of everyday life. Patients can focus on their recovery without the distraction of the opposite sex. Studies show that both men and women feel more comfortable communicating about issues like sexuality, social prejudice, and domestic abuse with members of their own gender.

Both men and women suffering from opiod addiction, both can benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation programs that focus on the full range of care required to be free from addiction. These programs take a patient from detox to residential treatment, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, and transitional living. Effective treatment therapies include:

  • Fitness training
  • Experimental and holistic modalities
  • Follow up programs
  • Family or marriage counseling
  • Nutritional counceling

Having the support of a highly trained, multidisciplinary staff can help individuals of both genders recover from the disease of addiction and regain hope for the future.

According to a SAMHSA report in 2014, men are more likely than women to use all types of illegal drugs that result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths. These drugs include marijuana (according to federal law) and the misuse of prescription drugs. Men in most age groups have a higher rate of use and dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women. However, women are just as likely as men to become addicted but are more likely to become addicted to prescription drugs and illegal drugs. Women are also more susceptible to craving and relapse which are key phases of the addiction cycle.

Going even further in their research SAMHSA found that women of color may face other unique issues with regard to drug use and treatment needs. For example, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native women are more likely than women of other racial and ethnic groups to be victims of rape, physical violence, and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime-issues that are risk factors for substance use and should be addressed during treatment.

In addition to drug abuse be affected by personality traits, research has shown that in most instances women use drugs differently, respond to drugs differently, and often have unique obstacles that prevent them from receiving effective treatment. Some of these obstacles being as simple as not being able to find child care or being prescribed treatment that has not been adequately tested on women.

Researchers continue to study to learn more about the differing factors that attribute to drug addiction in males and females. As they are able to effectively identify these factors, the medical community more able to develop programs to increase an individual’s chance of breaking free from addictive lifestyles.

They are learning that the physical and mental differences of both men and women contribute how they are introduced abuse an individual’s ability to be successful in a treatment program

In a July 2016 article CNN reported that:

“according to a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, worldwide, drug use has remained steady over the past four years,. However, researchers found that heroin use in the United States is up 145% since 2007.”

One in 20 adults — roughly a quarter of a billion people between ages 15 and 64 — used at least one illegal or improperly used drug in 2014, according to the World Drug Report 2016. Though the numbers have not grown in proportion to the global population, new trends have developed, including increased sales in anonymous online marketplaces.

The U.N. researchers also reported gender differences in drug use. Men are three times more likely than women to use cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines, while women are more likely to take opioids and tranquilizers for non-medical purposes.

Prescription Drug Abuse

When a prescription drug is used in quantities more than the recommended dosage or when not required, it is termed drug abuse. Painkillers, tranquilizers and anti-anxiety drugs are some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

Generally, patients take medicines as prescribed by their doctors. When taken this way, there is very little chance of the patient getting addicted. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), millions of people today use medications for non-medical purposes.

People try to justify drug abuse by convincing themselves that an overdose of prescription drugs is not as bad as street drugs such as heroin or ecstasy. The truth is that any kind of abuse is unwarranted. The problem with prescription drug abuse is that it starts with the consumption of a few extra pills for quick relief. The patient does not realize that abuse or addiction is likely.

If the doctor discontinues the prescription, an addict will seek out another doctor for a prescription of the same drug under false pretexts. Abusers use various methods to get a high. They even mix prescription drugs with alcohol, marijuana or any other similar drug. Drugs such as Ritalin and OxyContin are among the most abused drugs. Prescribing these drugs is carefully monitored and given only when urgently required.

To battle prescription drug abuse, medication directions must always be followed carefully. The physician must always be consulted regarding any change in dosage. It is not advisable to crush the tablets or take them with alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. Also, patients must never use someone else?s prescription, even if the symptoms are similar. The doctors should also exercise caution while prescribing drugs with any possibility of abuse. They must ask patients if they have any history of drug abuse.

Prescription drug abuse can be tackled with regular counseling. There is a lot of information on the Internet, and local physicians are always available for consultations.

Allergies – Antihistamines Part I

In this article we’re going to discuss probably the most common form of treatment for allergy sufferers; the use of antihistamines, what they are and how they work in the body to rid people of their allergy symptoms.

In this article we’re going to discuss probably the most common form of treatment for allergy sufferers; the use of antihistamines, what they are and how they work in the body to rid people of their allergy symptoms.

The first question most people ask about antihistamines is what they are. The reason is because when they see these little wonder pills advertised they are seeing the brand name and not what the pill actually is. The most popular brand names of antihistamines are Clarityn, Zyrtec, Allegra and Benadryl. There are plenty more though. The antihistamine industry is a multi billion dollar a year industry because of all the allergy sufferers but this still doesn’t tell us what an antihistamine is.

The best way to explain what an antihistamine is and what it does is to actually break the word down. Antihistamine is composed of two words, anti and histamine. Anti means to be against something or act against something. Which leaves us with what a histamine is. A histamine is something that your body produces in defense to an attack of allergens. It is these histamines that bring on the terrible symptoms of sneezing, itching, watery eyes, etc. that we suffer from when we are attacked by these allergens. Thus, an antihistamine is something that works against the histamines that our body produces.

Your common antihistamine comes in a little pill. How it actually works is quite amazing. What these pills do is release a chemical in our body that is very similar to and looks like a histamine to our body. These look-alike histamines make our body think that we basically have enough of these and keep the receptors in our body from working against them. In other words they stop the histamines in our body from working, thus relieving the symptoms.

What most people don’t know is that this is not the only function of histamines. They also play a very important role in the brain, keeping us attentive, alert and awake. So, if we stopped all of the histamines in the body from working we would basically fall asleep. This can be especially dangerous when driving a car or operating heavy machinery and in fact, this is exactly what happens when we take old antihistamines. So if you have any of these laying around in your home, please get rid of them and do not take them. Those expiration dates on antihistamines are there for a reason.

The good news is, newer forms of antihistamines have a much better effect on your allergies with less effect on your brain. How this is accomplished is actually very simple. Some medicines barely make it into the brain from the blood. This is actually not a good thing with antibiotics for brain infections. But when research workers figured this out they started to make antihistamines that also had the same properties as antibiotics, thus making it so that very little of the drug makes its way to the brain. If you read most antihistamine labels today it will say right on it, “non drowsy”.

In our next article in this series we’ll discuss the safety concerns of antihistamines.