The aging baby boom cohort and future prevalence of substance abuse
Because of the size of the baby boom cohort and the relatively higher rate of substance use relative to earlier cohorts, there is concern that as this cohort ages, there will be a substantial increase in the number of older adults with substance abuse problems. To address this concern, projections of future substance abuse prevalence were developed using data from the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Regression models were developed to predict problematic substance abuse among the older adult population, defined here as those aged 50 or older. The regression parameters from these models were then applied to the projected 2020 population to obtain estimates of the number of older adults with substance abuse problems in 2020. The number of older adults with substance abuse problems is estimated to increase from 2.5 million in 1999 to 5.0 million in 2020. The aging baby boom cohort will place increasing demands on the substance abuse treatment system in the next two decades and will require a shift in focus to address the special needs of an older population of substance abusers. There is also a need to develop improved tools for measuring substance use and abuse among older adults.