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Surge of Seniors Getting Addicted Later in Life

As many as 40% of older addicts didn't get hooked until their fifties.


Addiction is booming among the boomers
and the elderly. Photo via

By Fionna Agomuoh


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A new generation of addicts is getting hooked later in life, with many senior citizens and baby boomers revealed to be "late blooming" substance abusers. A study conducted by the Hanley Center found that over a third of older addicts surveyed claim not to have abused substances until reaching their fifties. Depression and anxiety seem to be the major contributing factors, and economic trouble and the pressures of retirement may also put older individuals at risk. "Older adults face a distinct set of challenges as they enter their golden years," says Hanley Center Medical Director Dr. Barbara Krantz. “Without the proper tools to manage their emotions, older adults turn to quick fixes such as alcohol and drugs, creating the perfect storm for dependency." The survey found that while 78% of older adults reported a first experience with drugs or alcohol before the age of 25, 40% said they didn't become substance abusers until after the age of 48. "Many of these individuals have abused substances for a long time and that's why they require a customized treatment plan, which we offer at the Hanley Center, to help them successfully achieve a lifestyle that is free of drugs and alcohol,” says Krantz. In general, the number of elderly individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse and dependence is rising fast. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that the number of seniors who admit to using illegal drugs within the last year almost doubled between 2002 and 2007. And the abuse of nonmedical pharmaceuticals also increased from 2.2% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2009.

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