For those of us growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we were lucky if we made it through our teens and 20’s without experiencing any kind of addiction. Back then, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, mescaline, Quaaludes and the like were easy to obtain and gave baby boomers a sense of freedom and camaraderie when experimenting with friends. None of the drugs typically used back then were prescription, and as we ventured forward in life, marriage, children and responsibility crept up on us. For those not addicted, the drugs went by the wayside, either used infrequently or not at all.
Meanwhile, during the 1960’s, the prescription drug world was fast taking over our parents. The New Yorker has a wonderful article about the Sackler brothers, Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond, of Purdue Pharma. The brothers were inventors and master marketers. Millions were made off of marketing to lonely housewives and anxiety-ridden fathers. Not content with their existing wealth, in 1995 the Sackler brothers were able to get OxyContin, an opioid, approved by the FDA without having submitted any studies as to the addictive aspects of the drug. Then, the hyper-marketing of OxyContin began.
Fast forward to today. Opioid prescription drug addiction has become an epidemic in this country. The addiction knows no age. However, for those over 50, who already average four prescription drugs per day, getting a prescription pain killer with an opioid, and the interaction with the other prescription drugs they take, can cause serious consequences. Addiction may be easier or overdose may be easier, depending on the other prescription drugs in their system. Baby boomers have to be careful not to fall victim to this scheme. Even though some of the symptoms of prescription drug addiction is similar to the natural aging process, discerning between whether you are truly going through the aging process or becoming a slave to prescription drugs can be hard if you are trying to self-diagnose. Friends and family have to be aware of signs and symptoms of addiction when they know a loved one is taking prescription medicine that involves opioids and narcotics. Forgetfulness, isolation, off-balance, irritability, personal appearance issues, etc., are all signs of both aging and addiction. Getting to the bottom of the behavior is key.
Even though we are over 50, we have many good years ahead of us. Our evolution from experimenting with non-prescription drugs during the 1960’s and 1970’s is completely different than the dangers the prescription drug industry has gotten us into today. Let’s hope that the lessons we have learned throughout our life will serve to help us recognize when we may be going down a path of self-destruction, and the strength to stop it. And for those that have not recognized their addiction, let’s hope that friends and family will step in and help them.