Credit: Reuters The substance abuse division (SAMHSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) learned some interesting information about how boomers get high these days. The department is fixing to get more funding, I guess, because it reports that in our (even) later years, we're going to need added substance abuse treatment services. Us?
Data from the SAMHSA short report, "Illicit Drug Use Among Older Adults," tells us that 1) fewer than 5 adults in 100 aged 50 or older used either marijuana or a prescription drug for non-medical purposes in the past year; 2) among the surveyed population the incidence of marijuana use is higher than that of illicit prescription drug use between the ages of 50 and 65; and 3) after 65, the use of illicit prescription drugs is greater than the use of marijuana. (The authors suggest that number 3 is due to the fact that those aged 65 or older now, were not raised in a "marijuana culture.")
Though a report published last year by SAMHSA showed a jump from 5.1 percent to 9.4 percent in marijuana use among the 50 - 59 age group between 2002 and 2007, this latest report, reflecting data collected from 2006 to 2008, showed both marijuana and illicit pill use constituted only 4.7 percent of the 50+ population, which included persons through the age of 65. This data show that incidence of any illicit substance declines with age. Another significant factor in these two studies is that the respondents were counted as "users" if they took marijuana or an illicit drug as few times as once in the past year.
There is wide inconsistency among SAMHSA surveys. A 2003 study, for example, interviewed a vast number of subjects aged 12+ and then reported the data by age sub-group. That study also shows that usage goes down in a straight diagonal slope from age 20, which constituted the largest percent (28 percent) of the population of users, to age 65+, where usage was at .6 percent. And, these conclusions were based on reported usage in the past month, not the past year.
Why isn't alcohol included in the most recent studies? The 2003 study looked at alcohol usage as well as prescription drugs, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs and separated them accordingly, but later studies did not include alcohol. The 2003 study showed incidence of alcohol abuse, as in binge drinking, to be 10 times the incidence of what was simply referred to "illicit drug use," which might have been a couple of joints every day or a couple of puffs once or twice in the past month.
Yet, the conclusion of the most recent study, in spite of the fact that illicit drug usage has historically subsided with age, is that current boomers will need more mental health care in 2020 because of a rising trend in drug use. Go figure.
Keeping you posted...