Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Generational Trends in Substance Abuse
Alcohol and drug abuse tends to follow generational trends. Different generations abuse different drugs, and they abuse alcohol in different ways. Among the different living generations, alcohol abuse varies. The baby boomer and generation X are the most likely to abuse alcohol. Adults older than 65 years old and younger than 30 years old are at lower risk of alcohol abuse. Generation Y has lower rates of alcohol abuse, but they have a higher rate of binge drinking.
Baby boomers are the population that was born between the years 1946-1964, after World War II. So many babies were born during this generation that they are having major impacts on society as they age. Substance abuse among baby boomers is different from earlier generations. Baby boomers are the first generation to have multiple addictions to illegal drugs and alcohol. Prior generations were mainly addicted to alcohol and some legal medications. Alcohol abuse among baby boomers can be both binge drinking and heavy alcohol use. Baby boomers also have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than earlier generations. Baby boomers are more open to receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse than earlier generations. As baby boomers age, lifelong alcohol and drug abuse can cause extensive health problems.
Generation X, or Gen X, is the generation that came after the baby boomers. Gen X ranges from the early 1960s to around 1982. Gen X is also known for a high rate of alcohol abuse, like the baby boomers. Gen X is less likely to binge drink than younger generations. In addition to heavy alcohol use, Generation X is associated with illegal “club drug” and marijuana use. They also have high rates of cigarette-related health issues.
Generation Y is the generation of people born from the early 1980s to around the year 2000. Other terms for this generation are millenials and echo boomers. Gen Y is prone to alcohol and illegal drug abuse. Gen Y is more likely to binge drink than older generations. This is primarily because binge drinking is socially acceptable to Gen Y. Males are more likely than females to binge drink, and more likely to develop alcohol dependence.
Generation Y may be less likely to seek alcohol treatment for binge drinking. This may be because they have not experienced health problems from drinking due to their younger age. It may also be because binge drinking is not seen as a bad thing. Also, there is the lost decade theory. People generally become dependent on alcohol around age 22. It typically takes around 10 years after developing alcohol dependency before a person decides to get treatment. Generation Y is not yet at treatment-seeking age.
Alcohol abuse seems to go along with generational trends. Studies also show that parents who abuse alcohol increase the odds of their children abusing alcohol. Children whose parents are alcoholics are four times more at risk of abusing alcohol than children of non-alcoholics. Does this mean that alcoholism is genetic, that it runs in the family? Or is it because children who see their parents drinking are more likely to drink themselves? So far, studies have been inconclusive.
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