Tuesday, May 30, 2006

America's elderly face growing drug addiction problem

BOSTON (Reuters) - When Patrick Gallagher first began nodding off at dinner, his family thought it was a symptom of old age. Their fears grew as it worsened. Withdrawing from the world at age 64, Gallagher was addicted to a cocktail of alcohol and prescription painkillers. "My whole life was centered around making sure I had an adequate supply of drugs and alcohol," said the former instructor at the University of Miami. Gallagher, of Jensen Beach, Florida, is an elderly substance abuser, a fast-growing group in the United States as baby boomers age. A government survey estimates that the number of adults aged 50 or older with substance abuse problems will double to 5 million in 2020 from 2.5 million in 1999, in large part due to their comfort with prescription drugs.

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