A new study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that the aging of the baby boom generation is resulting in a dramatic increase in levels of illicit drug use among adults 50 and older. These increases may require the doubling of substance abuse treatment services needed for this population by 2020, according to the report.
“This new data has profound implications for the health and well-being of older adults who continue to abuse substances,” said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “These findings highlight the need for prevention programs for all ages as well as to establish improved screening and appropriate referral to treatment as part of routine health care services.”
Substance abuse at any age is associated with numerous health and social problems, but age-related physiological and social changes make older adults more vulnerable to the harmful effect of illicit drug use.
“This study highlights the fact that older Americans face a wide spectrum of healthcare concerns that must be addressed in a comprehensive way,” said Assistant Secretary for Aging, Kathy Greenlee. “The Administration on Aging is committed to working with SAMHSA and all other public health partners in meeting these challenges.”
The latest SAMHSA short report, Illicit Drug Use among Older Adults, shows that an estimated 4.3 million adults aged 50 or older (4.7 percent) used an illicit drug in the past year. In fact, 8.5 percent of men aged 50 to 54 had used marijuana in the past year (as opposed to only 3.9 percent of women in this age group). The SAMHSA report also shows that marijuana use was more common than nonmedical use of prescription drugs among males 50 and older, (4.2 vs. 2.3 percent), but among females the rates of marijuana use and nonmedical use of prescription drugs were similar (1.7 and 1.9 percent).
Although marijuana use was more common than nonmedical use of prescription drugs for adults age 50 to 59, among those aged 65 and older, nonmedical use of prescription drugs was more common than marijuana.
The report, which examines the prevalence of any illicit drug use, marijuana use, and nonmedical use of prescription drugs, is based on data collected during 2006 to 2008 from a nationally representative sample of 19, 921 adults aged 50 or older who participated in SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health The full report is online at http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/168/168OlderAdults.cfm. Copies may also be obtained free of charge at http://ncadistore.samhsa.gov/catalog/productDetails.aspx?ProductID=182466.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation’s substance abuse prevention, addictions treatment, and mental health services delivery system.
Media Contact: SAMHSA Press Office