Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Oscar-winning actor renowned for his decades of iconic and powerful performances, died on February 2 of an apparent heroin overdose, and the media has talked about little else since. There's no getting around the fact that the beloved actor's passing came as shocking news to friends and fans alike, but it's a tragedy that underscores an even greater, if little talked-about, problem occurring in America today: That of the middle-aged drug user.
Although some may be tempted to stereotype drug users as teenagers or 20-somethings, the truth is that the majority of America's drug users and addicts are in older age groups. According to Reuters, approximately 2,500 Americans between the ages of 40 and 64 in 1980 died from substance abuse. Now, 30 years later, that number has skyrocketed to 25,000 per year, averaging one death per 20 minutes.
The problem is rooted in opiates and other prescription drugs, which may be doled out by doctors for injury treatment or other age-related maladies. Unfortunately, pills like Oxycontin and Vicodin can very easily develop a hold on their users, which can not only transform into addiction, but also push these individuals into abusing even more dangerous, street-level drugs like heroin – as in the case of Philip Seymour Hoffman. As a result, pharmaceutical and street opiates – classified as "the most-abused drugs" – are now predominantly used by adult, middle-aged Americans, surpassing car accidents, gun-related fatalities and AIDS as the country's leading cause of premature death.
This is what makes Fairwinds Treatment Center's dual diagnosis drug addiction treatment such a necessary part of the process. It's not enough to aim for curtailing drug access, because the demographic of users is always changing and those efforts may miss their mark. Instead, our specialists focus on the underlying psychological reasons that may be driving your loved one to resort to substance abuse in the first place.