Buzzed Baby Boomers In Texoma

Baby Boomers are addicted across the nation, and in Texoma, that trend rings true.

Americans over the age of 50 are receiving treatment for drug and substance abuse at an alarming rate, and the rate for people treated for addiction is drastically on the rise.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and as published in the U.S. Daily Review, older adults (over 50) reported that their illegal drug use within a year nearly doubled between 2002 and 2007 - a startling statistic for only five years of documentation.

Use of non-medical pharmaceuticals increased from 2.2% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2009. These statistics are still rising to date and health officials said that without early intervention and proactive treatment, these statistics will forever continue to rise. This would lead to an "addiction epidemic" among the older generation of Americans.

In addition, in a survey conducted by the Hanley Center, a drug and alcohol treatment and recovery center (Caron Treatment Centers), depression or anxiety were found to be the number one reason adults over the age of 50 abuse drugs or alcohol.

The survey, however, also laid out economic and financial stress as additional reasons older adults become dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. Retirement and one's emotional response to life changes during transitional years were also reasons the survey listed in their report.

The survey posted the follow results:

- While 79% of adults 48 and older said their first experience with drugs/alcohol occurred before the age of 25, 40% said they considered themselves to be substance abusers after the age of 48

- More than 90% of respondents named alcohol as one of the substances they abuse(d)

- 49.5% of respondents reported prescription drug abuse

- More than 40% of respondents said their families influenced their decision to seek treatment

In Wichita Falls and Texoma as a whole, Newschannel 6 gathered data from local recovery centers. We reached out to a number of in and outpatient care centers in Texoma and overall, found that each of these rehabilitation facilities have seen an increase in patients over 50 years old seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Licensed professional counselor for the Serenity Foundation of Texas outpatient care center in Wichita Falls, Tom Harwell said, "The opiates prescriptions have risen among all age groups." Harwell emphasized however, for those people over 50, it was especially an issue. The "Golden Years" for these Texomans can be comprised of such events as a mid-life crisis, or a retirement, or as Harwell mentioned, "heading down into your last phase of life." These experiences can trigger greater chances of and vulnerability to substance abuse addiction, he explained.

Tom Harwell believes this trend in Texoma is most easily seen in the substantial increase in prescription drug abuse specifically. Harwell said in the past year and six months or about two years, "Prescription drugs have caught up, if not surpassed, the street drugs."

Harwell explained that Baby Boomers in Texoma are getting buzzed in part, because a majority of the "Over 50" generation suffers from daily aches and pains they complain about to their physicians. For Boomers, prescription drugs are readily available among their personal health care providers with few questions asked of them.

These actions, however, are not carried out without severe long-term consequences for the abuser. "Unfortunately," Harwell said, "it's a lot easier to just swallow a pill than to take a hard look at what these pills really can do."

Brittany Glas, Newschannel 6