Still Crazy: Some Dabble In Hard Drugs After 50

The specter of a burned-out Baby Boomer using hard drugs way into middle age may conjure images of addiction, destruction and death.That certainly can be true, but it’s not the complete picture, at least according to a new study from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who found that people who occasionally use drugs like cocaine, amphetamines and opiates over the course of their lives are more common than anyone might suspect.“When you think of a drug user, you often think of someone strung-out, using every day, and in deep trouble, but national data shows that that’s not the most common thing you see,” says Dr. Stefan Kertesz, an associate professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. “The most common pattern is illicit drug use at lower levels.”In other words, these sporadic drug users are “dabblers,” says Kertesz, lead author of the study that followed more than 4,300 people from four cities recruited between the ages of 18 to 30 in 1985 and 1986 — and then tracked them for almost 20 years.He confirmed what he suspected from his experience in clinical care: that some perfectly functional middle-agers still turn to the drugs of their youth.