baby-boomer-drug-useThere is growing concern regarding the abuse of drugs among Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964. Facing challenges with aging, officials say that the number of Baby Boomers turning to drugs to cope has led to a rise in overdoses, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Historically, this generation is well known for its experimentation with illicit substances in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, using drugs at the highest rates of any generation, according to the article. Now, living in a time of rampant prescription opioid abuse and widespread availability to medical marijuana, Baby Boomers are, in a sense, returning to their roots.

“Generally, we thought of older individuals as not having a risk for drug abuse and drug addiction,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “As the baby boomers have aged and brought their habits with them into middle age, and now into older adult groups, we are seeing marked increases in overdose deaths.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that Baby Boomers use marijuana more than any other drug. While marijuana is relatively benign, many in this age group are abusing pain medication and anti-anxiety drugs, which at times results in overdoses. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 12,000 baby boomers lost their lives as the result of accidental drug overdoses, according to the article.

Between 1997 and 2012, while drug arrest rates fell with most younger age groups, arrest rates did not fall for late middle-aged adults. Marijuana and painkiller use is not the only concern, more than a third of hospital admissions for drug use among baby boomers were due to heroin, and more than 20 percent was for crack.

By 2020, researchers calculate that more than 5.7million over 50s will be treated for substance abuse.