Baby boomers abuse drugs?! (Shocking!)

Are you a “baby boomer”? 

This generation stems from the post-World War II baby boom.  

As with most things, they’re currently redefining what it means to be an older adult.  

They’re not the early bird special, matinee crown of their predecessors. And for many, this is becoming a problem.  

But the reason why might surprise you. 

In their youth, baby boomers defined street drug culture. They were likely the first generation to embrace recreational drugs… but did they ever stop? 

Let’s talk about it… 

A shocking increase in opioid-related deaths 

Healthcare providers aren’t trained to think of older generations as drug users/abusers. But this form of ageism has led to an uptick in fatal opioid overdoses among older adults.  

In fact, a new Northwestern Medicine study looked at two decades’ worth of opioid-related overdose data in adults 55 and older. Death rates jumped from 518 in 1999 to 10,292 deaths in 2019. That’s a whopping 1,889 percent increase! 

For added perspective, let’s look at the annual overall death rate among older adults 55 and older: Per 100,000 people in the U.S., it ranged from a low of 0.9 in 1999 to a high of 10.7 in 2019.  

Not to mention yet another somber statistic for this age group: By 2019, opioid overdose deaths increased to 40.03 per 100,000 among non-Hispanic Black or African American males.  

In an effort to better understand this uptick in fatal overdoses, researchers suggested a few potential contributing factors. 

Like the social isolation and depression that sometimes accompanies aging… which can hijack cognition. And declining cognitive funciton may interfere with taking drugs—including opioids—as prescribed. 

Not to mention, older adults are often exposed to opioids for chronic conditions that increase with age, like arthritis. 

Plus, the body’s ability to metabolize opioid drugs declines with age and, therefore, makes you more vulnerable to misuse. 

Signs to watch for and what to do 

Common signs of drug abuse include: 

  • Confusion 
  • Falls/feeling unsteady on your feet 
  • Refilling prescriptions too often 

So the next time you chalk something up to “getting older”—for yourself or someone you love—remember today’s conversation.  

Because the truth is, we’re all exposed to many vulnerabilities as we age. Opioid misuse just happens to be a largely overlooked one. 

And, as I just discussed last week, don’t forget to discuss your current medications with your doctor at each visit. You might not need all of those drugs after all. 

For additional ways to take back control of your health—and stay away from opiod drugs—check out my Essential Pain-Free Life Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool can help you pinpoint a treatment that’s right for you without relying on dangerous drugs. Click here to learn more, or to enroll today! 


“Older adult opioid overdose death rates on the rise.” NorthWestern Now, 01/11/2022. (