Efforts to curb illegal drugs often focus on the young—with good reason. While more than 20 percent of 18-to-20-year-olds used illicit drugs last year, only about 6 percent of 50-to-54-year-olds did.
But illegal drug use among young people is decreasing. Cocaine and methamphetamine use among young adults dropped over the past year, according to a recent report, although abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise. Meanwhile, there has been a spike in illicit drug use among baby boomers.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2007 survey on drug use found that the rate of illicit drug use in the past month among those ages 50 to 54 increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 5.7 percent in 2007. The confidential survey of 67,500, which included in-person interviews conducted in respondents' homes, found that among those between the ages of 55 and 59, illicit drug use more than doubled from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 4.1 percent in 2007.
The authors of the report say these trends may partially reflect the aging into these age groups of the baby boomers, whose lifetime rates of illicit drug use are higher than those of older age groups.