40 Percent of Boomers and Seniors Started Abusing Drugs or Alcohol Between Ages 48 and 64

Hanley Center Survey Finds Depression and Anxiety Fuel Addiction Among Older Americans

The number of people over the age of 50 who are being treated for addiction is drastically on the rise. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration older adults who reported using illegal drugs within a year, nearly doubled between 2002 and 2007, while use of nonmedical pharmaceuticals increased from 2.2 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in 2009. Without early intervention and treatment these statistics will continue to rise, leading to an epidemic in addiction among older Americans.

A survey conducted by the Hanley Center, a drug and alcohol treatment and recovery center acquired by Caron Treatment Centers, found depression or anxiety to be the number one reason older adults abuse drugs or alcohol. Additional factors such as economic and financial stress and retirement were also cited as contributing factors to dependency. Nearly half of the respondents named prescription drugs and alcohol as their substances of choice.

"Older adults face a distinct set of challenges as they enter their golden years," stated Dr. Barbara Krantz, Medical Director of Hanley Center. "This transitional period of life is unique and leads to difficulty in dealing with stressful situations, such as an early retirement or financial strains, which in turn may lead to serious anxiety and depression. 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, which was conducted anonymously among Hanley Center alumni, showed that:

  • While 79 percent of adults 48 and older said their first experience with drugs/alcohol occurred before the age of 25, 40 percent said they considered themselves to be substance abusers after the age of 48
  • More than 90 percent of respondents named alcohol as one of the substances they abused
  • 49.5 percent of respondents reported prescription drug abuse
  • More than 40 percent of respondents said their families influenced their decision to seek treatment

"We've made great strides by intervening on young people, but we continue to see an increase in boomers and seniors entering treatment," continued Dr. Krantz. "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."

With the help of a treatment and recovery plan and support from loved ones, Hanley Center alumni are feeling empowered, self-sufficient and healthy.

For more information on how older adults can get help with substance abuse please visit hanleycenter.org.