Heroin and Baby Boomers

It's not likely that you ever expected to use “grandma” or "grandpa" in the same sentence with “drug tests”, but a new survey just released from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveals startling new realities.
Jared Rosenthal
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It’s not likely that you ever expected to use “grandma” or “grandpa” in the same sentence with “drug tests”, but a new survey just released from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveals startling new realities.

As it turns out, baby boomers are a rapidly growing sector of illegal drug users. 9.2 percent of Americans aged 12 and over use illicit drugs – but the sector that’s growing the most happens to be those over the age of 50. In fact, for those between 50 and 64, illicit drug use doubled over the past decade. In 2002, 3.4 percent in that age bracket used illegal drugs. In 2012, that number jumped to 7.2 percent. And it gets worse.

Breaking the statistics down a bit, Americans between 55 and 59 saw the numbers rise from 1.9 percent to 6.6 percent.

And if you’re wondering what Grandma and Grandpa are doing when they’re not playing Bingo on Tuesday nights, you might be surprised to learn they’re using marijuana most often. You’re not so concerned with pot? Well, what about all those meds they have easy access to, like painkillers. Here’s the most alarming of all the drugs they’re now using: heroin. Yes, heroin is on the rise for baby boomers.

Some tentative good news on prescription drug abuse:

Many expected prescription drug abuse to be on the rise in 2012, as it has been in the recent past. However, painkiller abuse appears to be leveling off and even going down (though it’s still a huge concern). The White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowke believes it’s the “robust public health response along with well trained law enforcement” that’s helping to contain prescription drug abuse. He said he expects the numbers to continue to drop. “For the first time in a decade, we are seeing real and significant reductions in the abuse of prescription drugs in America,” he said. Good news? Don’t stop reading now. Heroin is back with a vengeance.

Older Americans show steep increase in heroin use:

In 2007, the number of heroin users increased to 373,000. The latest data obtained by Health Street shows that the number of heroin users grew to 669,000 in 2012. While no one can quite figure out why baby boomers are using more heroin, some experts think it’s a matter of convenience amongst those who want to use drugs: in essence, heroin is cheaper and more accessible than painkillers. In other words, it doesn’t necessitate the doctor shopping and pharmacy jumping required by oxycontin abusers.

While no adult wants to follow his parents around demanding a drug test, it’s time to start thinking about this issue. You might want to start at the kitchen table, with the exact same conversation your parents had with you, back when you were a teen, but in reverse. “Mom, Dad, let’s talk about what you do in your free time. Let’s talk about drugs.”

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

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Drug Testing

Read Health Street's dramatic and informative drug testing stories.

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Drug Testing

Read Health Street's dramatic and informative drug testing stories.