New Generation Gap as Older Addicts Seek Help

In their separate oasis, alcoholics and prescription drug abusers of a certain age do not curse at one another, raise their voices in anger or blast music at midnight. They don’t brag about their macho pasts or stage drama-queen breakups on the communal pay phone. They show up on time for therapy groups.

“We have different health issues, different emotional issues, different grief issues,” said Patrick Gallagher, 66, who was treated here for a dual addiction to pain medication and alcohol. “We need more peace and quiet and a different pace.”

Across the country, substance abuse centers are reaching out to older addicts whose numbers are growing and who have historically been ignored, closing the new generation gap. There are now residential and outpatient clinics dedicated to this new generation, those over 50, special counselors just for them at clinics that serve all ages, and screenings at centers for older Americans and physicians’ offices to identify older people unaware of their risk.

Addiction specialists and organizations for this new generation, and for the elderly, anticipate a tidal wave of baby boomers needing help for addictions, often for different substances and with different attitudes toward treatment than the generation that came before them. Federal data shows ……….. (continue reading)

Excerpted from the New York Times article on March 6, 2008.