Baby boomers — that’s anyone born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1964 — are 20% of the population, more than 70 million Americans. Decades ago, many in that generation experimented with drugs that were both recreational and illegal. Although boomers may not be using those same drugs today, many are taking medications, often several of them. And even if those drugs are legal, there are still risks of interactions and side effects.
The taking of multiple medications is called polypharmacy, typically four or more at the same time. That includes prescriptions from doctors, over-the-counter medicines, supplements and herbs. Sometimes, polypharmacy can be dangerous.
I am a geriatrician, one of only 7,500 in the U.S. That’s not nearly enough to accommodate the surging number of elderly boomers who will need medical care over the next two to three decades — or help in dealing with the potential problems of multiple drug use.
Reactions to medications can change over time
We, geriatricians, know that polypharmacy isn’t always bad; multiple medications may be necessary. If you’ve had a heart attack, you might be on four medications or more — beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, statins, and aspirin, for instance. And that’s appropriate.