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"Geezer" Drug Use to Have Ripple Effect

With health care now one of America's most controversial topics, the increase in substance abuse among aging baby boomers and the treatment needed to help them cope is sure to fall on an already overtaxed system.

According to a new study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the need for substance abuse treatment among Americans over age 50 is expected to double by 2020.

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"This new data has profound implications for the health and well-being of older adults who continue to abuse substances," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "These findings highlight the need for prevention programs for all ages as well as to establish improved screening and appropriate referral to treatment as part of routine health care services."

While substance abuse at any age can cause a negative ripple affect to one's health and social well-being, it's the age-related physiological and social changes that make older adults more vulnerable to the harmful effect of illicit drugs use.

Facts from the latest SAMHSA report include:

• An estimated 4.3 million adults aged 50 or older (4.7 percent) used an illicit drug in the last year.

• 8.5 percent of men aged 50 to 54 had used marijuana in the last year (as opposed to only 3.9 percent of women in this age group).

• Marijuana use was more common than non-medical use of prescription drugs among males 50 and older, (4.2 vs. 2.3 percent), but among females the rates of marijuana use and non-medical use of prescription drugs were similar (1.7 and 1.9 percent).

• Although marijuana use was more common than non-medical use of prescription drugs for adults age 50 to 59, among those aged 65 and older, nonmedical use of prescription drugs was more common than marijuana use.

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