Skip Navigation

Link to  the National Institutes of Health  
The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Archives of the National Institute on Drug Abuse web site
Go to the Home page

Home > Science Meeting Summaries & Special Reports > Drug Abuse in the 21st Century > Index

Header - Drug Abuse in the 21st Century: What Problems Lie Ahead for the Baby Boomers?


Substance Abuse in the Elderly - An Overview
Download PowerPoint Presentation
[6.0 MB]

Substance Abuse in the Elderly—An Overview
Timothy P. Condon, Ph.D.

The baby boomer generation is America’s largest thus far, and in 30 years will comprise 20 percent of the nation’s population (~70 million people). While substance abuse typically declines with age, for a variety of social, cultural, and economic reasons, baby boomers appear to be using and abusing alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs at higher rates than previous cohorts. However, little is known about how the aging brain may respond to drugs of abuse, how early drug use affects the aging process, or how drugs of abuse may interact with medical conditions associated with aging. For example, markers of dopamine function decrease both as a function of age as well as in response to drugs of abuse. The implications of these findings for substance abuse in the aging brain are unknown. Neurotoxic indicators also show greater drug-induced effects with age, suggesting interactions between drug abuse and aging in the brain. However, more research is needed to elucidate these interactions. Changes in drug disposition and metabolism with age, as well as the preponderance of co-morbid physical and mental health conditions, may also pose greater complications for substance abuse in this population. Finally, in order to address this problem, unique considerations must be taken into account in devising effective prevention, detection, and treatment strategies for older adults. As this is an emerging field of research, NIDA welcomes recommendations for the development of a research agenda aimed at more fully delineating the extent of the problem, the potential medical, psychological, and social consequences, as well as effective means for ameliorating the potentially devastating consequences of substance abuse in older adults.

Archive Home | Accessibility | Privacy | FOIA (NIH) | Current NIDA Home Page
National Institutes of Health logo_Department of Health and Human Services Logo The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) , a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Questions? See our Contact Information. . The U.S. government's official web portal