Woodstock: Boomers carry on wrong tradition

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 40th anniversary of "three days of peace and music" passed last weekend with the usual documentaries and reminiscences, and with good reason.

Nothing before or since has frozen a culture in time as much Woodstock, or forced a transition from the innocence of the early hippie days to the reality of mud and the results of debauchery.

It's tempting to try to relive one's youth as one approaches retirement, and it's no different for the baby boomers who took part in the giant party at Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, N.Y.

Recalling is one thing; reliving is another.

Unfortunately, too many middle-aged Americans are turning to the worst part of the Woodstock experience, the drugs.

According to a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the rate of people aged 50 to 59 who admit to using illicit drugs in the past year nearly doubled, from 5.1 percent to 9.4 percent, from 2002 to 2007.

The study, which surveyed use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and abused prescription drugs, found such use actually declined among all other age groups.

The number of people 18-25 who admitted using illicit drugs was steady at 19.7 percent, and the number of 12-to-17-year-olds who used drugs declined to 9.5 percent from 11.6 percent.

"These findings show that many in the Woodstock generation continue to use illicit drugs as they age," said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick. "This continued use poses medical risks to these individuals and is likely to put further strains on the nation's healthcare system -- highlighting the value of preventing drug use from ever starting."

Forty years later, the "three days of peace and music" are still reverberating in a negative way. It's time for the Woodstock generation to let go -- at least of the drugs.