The Substance Abuse Factor
Another reason that the portion of total crimes that involves arrests of older persons seems destined to grow is that future cohorts of older adults will include a significantly larger number of individuals who have a history of moderate to heavy drinking (and problem drinking) than has been the case in the past. Indeed, alcohol misuse already appeared more frequently in the older population in 2000 than in previous cohorts. Although the exact role played by alcohol is not well understood, it is clearly associated with the commission of a significant proportion of crimes. The prevalence of illicit drug use, while not as strongly associated by itself with criminal acts as is alcohol, will also almost certainly be higher among future cohorts of older persons, as they will be more likely to have been at least recreational users of these drugs when young. The combination of illicit drugs and alcohol, especially if used in combination with medications, may increase the number of serious criminal acts committed by older individuals.