Cocaine is coming back as a popular recreational drug, and it’s not just young people who are getting high on this illegal and addictive substance. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the use of illegal drugs and misuse of prescription medications has skyrocketed among people in their 50s and 60s. The percentage of those aged 50-59 who abuse cocaine tripled from 2002 to 2011.
Cocaine, commonly called coke, is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. It is not new to civilization, and it certainly isn’t new to the Boomer generation. Many started using it as early as the ’60s and ’70s, and, during the ’80s, coke was seen as a sophisticated party drug. Crack is a powder form of cocaine that can be freebased or smoked, while the original, water-soluble form of cocaine is snorted or injected.
Why is cocaine so popular? The highs include a sense of sociability and euphoria, excitement and energy. Users sometimes mix heroin with it in a “speedball.” Alcohol is combined to create an upper/downer. Although coke is widely believed to be safe, the facts dispute this claim because coke can cause strokes, seizures, hyperthermia, low blood pressure and coma.
Symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine can include nausea, vomiting or headaches. In some cases these symptoms are so severe they have sent people to the hospital.
Why are Boomers returning to cocaine, among other drugs? The earlier in life people drink alcohol, use illegal drugs and use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, the more likely they are to become chemically dependent as adults. This relationship of use stretches even into later life.
Many Boomers in recovery from addiction describe a youth of experimentation. Although they may have left the drugs behind decades ago, a stressful situation may have prompted use once again. Often in such cases, addiction follows.
Boomers report taking an average of at least four drugs concurrently, both legal and illegal, upon entering treatment. Alcohol still remains the No. 1 drug of choice, regardless of what other drugs are taken. With commitment, support of family and quality, age-specific rehab, there is hope of health and recovery from addiction.