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Arlene claims she wasn't a typical teen of the '60s and '70s – mostly because in those days she was against doing drugs during the era of "Turn on, tune in, drop out," the counterculture phrase about doing LSD popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966.
Arlene, 58, is part of the baby boomer generation, that ubiquitous group of over 76 million American children born between 1945 and 1964. Now part of a large and aging demographic, baby boomers grew up in a time of abrupt and climactic social change, when the recreational use of drugs, in an effort to alter their state of consciousness, was a key part of their youth.
Then the '80s hit, and boomers grew up, got "mature" and responsible jobs, had kids, began to take care of aging parents, and paid their bills. Most stopped getting high, and drinking became less Boone's Farm and more cocktails or a glass of wine. But today, baby boomers are increasingly the demographic turning, or returning, to drugs in an effort to feel better, against the aches and pains of aging, as well as from depression, economic loss and the loss of parents and partners. According to government researchers, nationally, more than 5.7 million people over the age of 50 will need substance abuse treatment by 2020. Already, those treating substance abuse are seeing an increase in baby boomers with increased needs for drug-related health problems.
"By the year 2020, the population of aging baby boomers will double," said Scott Masi, outreach and referral specialist for Brighton Center for Recovery. "Over the age of 60, they have greater access to doctors, and they're seeking more appointments on average. Eighty percent of all office visits to a doctor will result in a prescription being written. It could be for a statin, blood pressure pill, or a pain pill. The majority being written are for pain pills."
"I didn't party a lot as a teen. I was really against drugs," Arlene (not her real name) said. She said that as an adult, "I experimented with drugs a little – a couple of pain pills, coke now and then, maybe once a year at a party. And I drank socially. Not daily, maybe once a week, I drank with a bunch of friends."
Arlene, a single mother, was a professional office worker. "I always worked. I was able to buy a new home in West Bloomfield at 40," she said. "My son got married a few years later, and suddenly I was alone. I was alone and ran into people I thought were my friends. They got me to try crack cocaine and heroin.
"I was lonely and depressed. I never thought anyone could convince me to put a needle in my arm."...continued on page 2