Drugs are killing aging baby boomers in Arizona at unprecedented rates, says the Arizona Republic. Experts attribute the trend to increases in both prescription- and illegal-drug use. The problem has been mounting nationwide for years but has been largely overlooked by drug-abuse prevention officials, who were not focused on adult-age subgroups. “Drug addiction is so often talked about as a disease of our youth, but for so many people, it catches up with them when they age,” said Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical director at Hazelden, a substance-abuse treatment program in Minnesota. The number of deaths for fatal, accidental poisoning by drugs and alcohol among Arizonans increased from 39 in 1995 to 250 in 2005.
Boomers, now ages 42 to 60, are particularly susceptible to drug abuse in middle age and beyond. Some took up drugs during the Vietnam era, graduating to barbiturates and heroin and fighting addiction off and on. Others turned later to prescription drugs and got caught up in their growing potency. In the Phoenix area, the majority of drug-abuse deaths are tied to opiates, followed by cocaine, alcohol, stimulants and benzodiazepines, says the federal Drug Abuse Warning Network. “Meth is a killer, and so is heroin,” said Sally Lara of the Phoenix chapter of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.