Californians age 40 and older are dying of drug overdoses at double the rate recorded in 1990, a little-noticed trend that upends the notion of hard-core drug use as primarily a young person’s peril, reports the Los Angeles Times. Indeed, overdoses among baby boomers are driving an overall increase in drug deaths so dramatic that soon they may surpass automobile accidents as the state’s leading cause of nonnatural deaths. In 2003, the latest year for which the state has figures, a record 3,691 drug users died, up 73% since 1990. The total surpassed deaths from firearms, homicides and AIDS.
Remarkably, the rate of deadly overdoses among younger users over that period has slightly declined, while the rate among those 40 and older has jumped from 8.6 to 17.3 per hundred thousand people. The change has caught many prevention programs, which tend to be geared toward young people, off guard. Several drug abuse prevention officials and other experts said there was virtually no strategy in place to address the risk of overdose among older users.