Anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. While some people are at increased risk for developing alcoholism or drug addiction because of genetic markers, trauma, or growing up with someone suffering from substance addiction, no one is immune from this disease given the “right” circumstances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many people “mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to.”

The reality is that alcohol and drugs change the brain to the extent that it literally becomes governed by compulsion. When addiction sets in, physical and psychological dependencies become profoundly powerful. Experts say, age doesn’t make a difference; however, certain demographics are associated with certain types of substance abuse and understanding these generational trends on addiction may lead to improvements in addiction therapy.

Young Adults

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, an estimated 1.3 million U.S. teens are dealing with a substance abuse disorder–that’s 5% of all teens. About 1.4% these teens also have a mental health condition. The report goes on to suggest that illicit drug use is highest for ages 18-25, but binge drinking is also a significant problem for this demographic. Additionally, prescription drug stimulants are being used by this group–teens and young adults–at an increasing rate.

Middle Age

In many states, death as a result of an overdose is highest for people aged 25-35, but addiction is becoming one of the leading causes of death for people aged 40-64. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Among persons aged 15 and over, adults aged 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54 had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2016 at around 35 per 100,000.” Fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol overdose rates (and other synthetic opioids) actually doubled from 2015 to 2016.


According to reports, even the elderly are not immune to substance addiction. As health declines, many conditions require pharmaceutical management. Many prescription drugs are highly addictive like painkillers. Simply taking a bit more to manage pain from one month to the next can leave a person vulnerable to addiction–and they may not even realize it’s happening.

The Importance of Treatment

Addiction is a serious disease that can lead to serious and even life-threatening health conditions. A person is addicted to drugs or alcohol is also at increased risk for falls or other injuries. Overdose is always a concern when it comes to substance addiction as well. With treatment, individuals can learn to manage their conditions, and many of today’s addiction treatment centers featuring programming specially designed for certain age groups, genders, and even profession. Without treatment, addiction is likely to worsen.

Addiction is not a problem to take lightly, no matter what the individual’s age happens to be. It is a chronic illness that can only be managed with abstinence. If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse problem or you suspect addiction is present, be sure to seek out treatment right away.