So why is it baby boomers can’t just say NO to pot smoking? Maybe it is because they are part of the me generation. Perhaps it is because they have the largest disposable income available to them to purchase drugs. Maybe they are in a time warp and still believe it is the 1960′s. No matter what the reason is, 8 percent of boomers ages 50 to 59 have used some type of illicit drug in the past year according to the Mental Health Services Administration. In fact, Marijuana seems to be the most commonly used drug. However, pain killers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety medications run close behind. The percentages of pill poppers and and pot smokers has risen more than 50 percent between 2002 and 2008. I am seeing this rise myself with the clients walking through the doors of my private practice and at the Malibu Rehab I work at.
The question arises why has teen use dropped and illicit drug use among individuals in their fifties risen? What these boomers hadn’t realized before it became too late is you can become addicted to marijuana. In years gone by it was believed you couldn’t become addicted to just an “herb”. Wrong. So why then is this generation of rock and roll music, free love, and strong political stances hooked on pot? Perhaps it is because this generation was known for using drugs and alcohol extensively for recreation in their younger years and they just never stopped. In fact they most likely began using before the age of 30. Another huge problem is pain killer addiction is on the rise. Just look at Michael Jackson as one of those examples, although he was only on the cusp of being a baby boomer. Although the generations prior to the baby boomers didn’t even like taking an aspirin, the boomers are used to a quick fix to relieve emotional or physical pain. Baby boomers are also now dealing with the deaths of aging parents or being sandwiched in between aging parents and young children. Also, the nation is in one of the worst economic times it has seen in many years with some baby boomers losing their jobs with no new jobs to go to.
If there is any hope to this era of rising drug addiction among baby boomers, they do seek treatment, unlike when they were younger, and it was not socially acceptable to admit they had a problem. However, with the rising costs of health care, will they receive the treatment they need? Unfortunately, many of the treatment programs today do not take insurance or if they do, it only pays a small portion of their stay in treatment. Will society be able to support all the baby boomers as they get older? Researchers project by the year 2020, with the rise in the 50 to 59 age group needing treatment, we will most likely need to double the number of rehab facilities. Health care providers need to pay close attention to their patients. Memory loss can definitely be a result of long time marijuana abuse and not just the onset of Alzheimers Disease. So it is time to step out of denial and step into the harsh reality that marijuana is an addictive substance. It is never too late to seek treatment.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Agoura, CA. She specializes in addictions, PTSD (trauma), anxiety, depression, and facilitates a Recovery Group. She is the Psychotherapist and Life Coach on Celebrity Rehab 2 and 3 and behind the scenes of Sober House. She is a published author and has articles in Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News, the Huffington Post, and soon Martha Stewart’s Body and Soul. Her upcoming book “The Law of Sobriety” will be out in September of 2010. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or check her web site at www.sgabatherapy.com. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SherryGaba