Addiction booming in baby boomers

8:44 AM, Feb 22, 2012   |    comments
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(KNBC) -- The new face of drug use is baby boomers and people pushing retirement.  In the last two decades, the percentage of people admitted to drug treatment programs in the 50-plus demographic has doubled. 

"I was a real mess when I came in here. A real mess," said Peggy, a recovering addict.

She is 58 years old and in drug rehab for the first time.

"I was in a total black out from the sixth of October to the 17th. They did a blood alcohol on me it was .43. I should have been dead then," said Peggy.

Peggy called herself a functioning addict.  She had a career as a dispatcher, raised six kids and even went back to school to get a paralegal certificate.

"I would do my homework on the computer and smoke meth," Peggy said.

Alcohol is still the most popular drug of choice for boomers in rehab, but there has been a dangerous spike with illegal or street drugs.

The number of adults in rehab claiming heroin as their primary drug has doubled in recent years, from 7.2 percent to 16 percent.

There, there is the abundant world of prescription drugs.

"I would drink vodka in the morning, and then when I got back from the bar, I was taking norcos, Vicodin, Ativan, Ambien and Xanax," Peggy said.

Because against comes with legitimate aches and pains, there is a greater availability of potentially addictive pain and anxiety meds.

"Doctors are quick to prescribe them pain, people find comfort in them. And they're off and running, they abuse them, they develop a dependency, they wind up at our front door," said Stan Galperson of the Tarzama Treatment Center.

Galperson runs the residential and outpatient programs at the center.  He said part of the challenge for the over-50 crowd is simply lifestyle.  At this point, if they are nearing retirement, they have some money, more time and less structure."You don't have the consequences anymore that the boss may notice that you are under the influence, your work performance is suffering. If you don't have those anymore it is quite easy to let your addiction progress," Galperson said.

And when your kids are grown and leave home, many moms and dads simply feel lost.

"Substance use becomes an alternative to deal with that whole changing identity," said Galperson.

As for Peggy, she is now four months into recovery.  She said she is grateful for her family, stronger because of this program and happy to take back her life.

"I'm proud of who I've become. I looked at myself in the mirror today and I saw a different person," said Peggy.


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