Specialized adult addiction treatment usually takes place in a residential facility that entirely focuses on people in this stage of life. This allows adults to interact with medical staff that are trained in their unique needs, and to participate in group counseling with peers their own age who they can relate to and feel comfortable in being open in front of. The needs and circumstances of middle-aged adults differ from those of seniors and younger adults, and a specialized treatment facility is fully equipped to handle them.
“Adult” in this context refers to the age range usually considered to be middle-aged, or roughly age 45 to 65. The “Baby Boomer” generation is presently going through this phase of life, and they have unique needs and compounding circumstances when it comes to substance abuse and treatment for it.
Baby Boomers are experiencing one of the sharpest increases in substance abuse of all demographics. The current generation of people in the middle-age range grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s, a time when drug and alcohol use was becoming much more permissive but the long-term health consequences of it were not well understood. Many Boomers may have been casual users of drugs or even substance abusers when they were younger, but set the habit aside in their 30’s and 40’s as they developed their careers. As they approach retirement age, however, studies by agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are finding that this current generation is more willing to both experiment with and abuse drugs than previous generations.
Boomers are also reaching the age where they develop chronic pain just at a time when opioid painkillers are being prescribed in record numbers. This has fed a rise in opiate addictions, which sometimes transition to a heroin addiction when the pills become too hard to obtain.
Boomers who are reaching or are at retirement age have life complications that their younger counterparts are usually not facing. They may be dealing with grief from the loss of a spouse or family, having difficulty transitioning into a retirement lifestyle, experiencing economic hardship, dealing with serious health problems or trying to handle a divorce after a long period of being married.
Adults of this age also often feel a deep sense of shame at their drug use that dissuades them from seeking treatment. Middle-aged adults sometimes feel that they are too wise or responsible to develop a drug addiction, and may refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists or that it has progressed to a point where they cannot handle it on their own.
Diagnosis also becomes more challenging as adults age. They may develop conditions with symptoms that overlap with those commonly seen with drug use, such as confusion or impaired motor skills.
The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that about four million adults over the age of 50 are currently in need of drug or alcohol treatment, and that number will spike to six million in the next five years.
Alcohol is still the leading substance of abuse among boomers, but cocaine and prescription pain pills are the most rapidly growing categories. Each of these have represented about 25% of new treatment cases since 2012.
The good news for adults who need drug treatment is that they relapse at a much lower rate than their younger counterparts when they get professional treatment. A certified medical facility provides adults with an environment in which to detox safely, talk to mental health and substance abuse counselors who understand their unique needs and respect them, meet with peers who they can relate to in support groups and get aftercare in an environment that is appropriate for their age and station in life.
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