Guess who uses more illicit drugs these days and is most likely to die from an overdose?
No, not 20-somethings, but aging baby boomers, the over 40 crowd. According to state health officials, almost 3,700 people died of drug overdoses in California in 2003. The overdose death rate for younger drug users, those 15 to 39, was half that of my generation - those over 40. More Californians over 40 died of drug overdoses than from AIDS or homicide. If current trends hold, soon more boomers will die from drugs than from car accidents.
In some ways this is to be expected. As people get older, their health deteriorates on the natural. Older, long term, hard core, drug users are especially vulnerable. In part that’s because their metabolism has slowed and they aren't able to slough off the effects of drugs nearly as easily as a younger user might.
All this has caught the treatment community unprepared. Most drug programs are geared for the young, not the Woodstock generation. New approaches are urgently needed. "Just say no" won't work for baby boomers. So, how about "stop or die."
Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.