ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Our parents and grandparents are dying at an alarming rate, but not from cancer, heart disease, or old age, but from drug overdoses.
More than 4 million Baby Boomers are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The national survey on drug use and health finds about half of all adults, ages 51 to 69 have experimented with illicit drugs.
Most Baby Boomers’ addictions start in their own home with prescription painkillers.
“Many of them come into our facility rather embarrassed at their age to need this kind of service,” says Cheryl Piper with Remedies Renewing Lives.
Of the 2,000 patients, Remedies Renewing Lives serves every year, Cheryl Piper, Vice President of Clinical Services says roughly 400 are Baby Boomers struggling with addiction.
Up until this point, most have led clean lives, raising a family and working hard. Piper says many addictions started with pain meds, but by the time they seek help, they’re using heroin.
“It’s a bad drug and eventually they end up so addicted to that and so sick, physically ill that they need help.”
However, sometimes that help never arrives and those Baby Boomers end up in the Winnebago County Morgue.
“Actually we’ve had more seniors overdose on heroin and cocaine than we have teenagers,” says Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia.
In the last decade, 18 Baby Boomers in the county died from overdoses. More than half of those happened in the last two years.
“It’s taking them because their system isn’t used to it. It’s used to the pain medication. To come off the pain medication and to go on the heroin it’s affecting their heart and causing their heart to stop and they’re dying,” says Fiduccia.
Coroner Sue Fiduccia has the difficult task of explaining to families how their loved ones died.
“It’s very hard to explain to children in their 40’s and 50’s why mom or dad died and they just have a lot of trouble understanding that,” says Fiduccia. “No one expects their parent at that age of their life to find that they have an addiction.”
With the rising prices of prescription drugs, Fiduccia suggests adults take a more active role in their aging parents’ lives.
“Talk to them. Hey, can you afford your medication? Or how about I go to the pharmacy and I’ll get your medication for you.”
Prescription drug abuse is considered the fastest drug problem in the U.S. The federal government recently enacted new rules to slow abuse of pain killers. Patients now have to meet in person with their doctors and have a written prescription when they go to the pharmacy, instead of having a doctor call the pharmacy and fax a script over.