Trends in Addiction Treatment: Age and Life Stage

Trends in Addiction It seems that most of the time when the media profiles an addiction treatment facility, they focus on inpatients who are in their 20’s and who may have begun abusing drugs or alcohol as a teenager. Celebrity news supports this image, as the figures most well-known for going to rehab—Lindsay Lohan, Cory Monteith, and Amy Winehouse, to name a few—all entered treatment programs as young adults. However, this “typical” patient does not give an entirely accurate picture of drug abuse and treatment trends. Individuals ranging from teenagers to the elderly have entered treatment centers, and some rehabilitation facilities even cater to specific age groups. Here’s a look at some of the age-related trends in addiction rehab.

Addiction Rehab and Teenagers

Most people who use drugs start during their teenage years, and 51% of first-time drug users are under 18. (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Marijuana is the most commonly used drug for teenage users, followed by prescription painkillers, then inhalants. Inhalants are the most commonly used drug for younger teenagers, likely because it is a drug they may have easier access to in their own household. Since drug abuse in teens puts young people at risk for continuing this behavior into adulthood, there are a number of programs around the country focusing specifically on drug addiction treatment for high schoolers. Many of these programs focus on getting students sober so that they can complete their education and also offer certified education programs at the rehab center so that students don’t fall behind.

Addiction Rehab and Twenty-Somethings and Young Adults

Out of the whole population, drug use is highest for people in their late teens and twenties, and this is also reflected in rehab center admissions rates. According to a study for SAMHSA, the age range with the highest rate of rehab admission is 25-29, followed by 20-24, then 40-44.

Addiction Rehab and Baby Boomers

Drug use has recently been increasing among people in their 50’s, in part because the generation of baby boomers has historically had higher rates of illicit drug use than other generations. Many of the baby boomers who enter rehab may already be well-established in their careers and are seeking a facility that will allow them to continue working or maintain anonymity.

Addiction Rehab and the Elderly

Most people don’t think about the elderly and drug abuse together, but the unfortunate truth is that the elderly population is at great risk – for prescription drug abuse. Many older people have multiple prescriptions from different doctors, and 3 in 10 people between the ages of 57 and 85 have five or more prescriptions, making it easier for senior citizens to abuse their medication without a doctor noticing. (The Partnership at

Elderly people may start abusing prescription medication for a myriad of reasons, from joint pain to problems sleeping to sadness over the loss of loved ones. A number of rehab centers specifically for the elderly have opened in response to this prescription painkiller addiction problem. As we age, we begin to metabolize drugs differently, meaning that rehab facilities should take age into account when treating inpatients. We may also respond better to different types of treatment and counseling services depending on what life stage we’re at, which is another reason why life stage-specific treatment centers can be useful. Make sure you ask about age-specific treatment when looking for a facility.

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