Baby boomers' use of marijuana and other drugs is increasing usage rates among older adults, while drug use among teenagers is declining, according to a national survey released Thursday.
Baby boomers' use of marijuana and other drugs is increasing usage rates among older adults, while teens' drug use is declining, according to a national survey released Thursday.
Overall, illicit drug use among Americans rose slightly from 2004 to 2005, driven in part by small increases in cocaine and prescription drug abuse by young adults 18-25 and by rising drug use — mostly marijuana — among adults 50-59, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health said. The survey said 8.1% of Americans 12 and older were illicit drug users in 2005, up from 7.9% in 2004 but down from 8.3% in 2002.
The use of illicit drugs among baby boomers 50-59 rose 63% from 2002 to 2005, according to the survey, which was sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The survey questioned 68,308 people 12 and older about their substance abuse, smoking and drinking habits.
In 2005, 4.4% of adults in their 50s said they had used an illicit drug in the previous month, up from 2.7% in 2002. Drug use among youths 12-17, however, fell slightly for the third straight year, with 9.9% reporting illicit drug use during the previous month in 2005 compared with 10.6% in 2004.
Federal anti-drug officials say the survey indicates that while some baby boomers who were in their teens and 20s when drug-use rates peaked in the 1970s are taking their drug habits well into middle age, today's youths aren't embracing drugs as enthusiastically.
The Census Bureau says there are 78.2 million baby boomers, the generation born from 1946 to 1964. This year, the oldest of them are turning 60. When they were young, "substance abuse became seen as part of coming of age," says John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some "have carried (it) on throughout their lifetimes."
Steve Hager, 55, editor of the marijuana advocacy magazine High Times, says some ailing people his age choose marijuana over sleeping pills or anti-depressants. "People in their 60s are rediscovering it," Hager says of marijuana, which has been used as a pain reliever for glaucoma and other maladies. "If you're using it sparingly, it's the most wondrous medicine."
The U.S. government does not recognize marijuana as having a medicinal benefit, but 11 states allow its use for medical purposes. Marijuana is the most popular illicit drug. About 6% of those surveyed reported using it in the previous month. Stimulants and prescription drugs were the second-most-used illicit drugs; 2.6% reported using them illicitly in the prior month.