Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who's the Dope Fiend--You or Dad?

It's already a Most-Emailed story in the New York Times:
For a sizable group of people in their 20's and 30's, deciding on their own what drugs to take - in particular, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications - is becoming the norm.

Provocative! Those irresponsible kids!

Except, the generational frame of this story has no basis in fact, and is probably wrong. Witness this LA Times story from last month (based on actual statistics):

Californians age 40 and older are dying of drug overdoses at double the rate recorded in 1990, a little-noticed trend that upends the notion of hard-core drug use as primarily a young person's peril.
Indeed, overdoses among baby boomers are driving an overall increase in drug deaths so dramatic that soon they may surpass automobile accidents as the state's leading cause of nonnatural deaths.
In 2003, the latest year for which the state has figures, a record 3,691 drug users died, up 73% since 1990. The total surpassed deaths from firearms, homicides and AIDS.
Remarkably, the rate of deadly overdoses among younger users over that period has slightly declined, while the rate among those 40 and older has jumped from 8.6 to 17.3 per hundred thousand people. Since older people are more likely to have health coverage, use more presecriptions, and have more money to spend, AND are more likely to abuse drugs, doesn't it follow that this pill-trading behavior is at least cross-generational?

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