Are the Numbers of Elderly Drug and Alcohol Abusers Increasing?
Illicit drugs are becoming more popular in the UK among people over 50. Since 1993 the number of people between the ages of 50 and 65 using drugs has increased ten-fold, according to a new study published in the journal Age and Aging. In particular the older generation is more likely to use drugs like cannabis, amphetamines, cocaine and LSD.
Evidence suggests this spike in elder drug use is not from increased use later in life. It stems from a larger percentage of people over 50 with a lifelong history of drug use. The study found that 11.4% of people between 50 and 65 had a history of cannabis use. Of these people 1.8% admitted to using the drug within the last 12 months. Lifetime amphetamine use has also spiked in the last decade.
As these lifelong users age, they are taking their drug habit with them.
The senior author of the study, Professor Robert Stewart from King’s College London, worries that this increase of aging addicts and users will present tough new challenges for the English healthcare system.
"Our data suggest at the very least that large numbers of people are entering older age groups with lifestyles about which we know little in terms of their effects on health and would benefit from further monitoring - in particular, health service staff providing care for older people should be aware of the possibility of illicit drug use as part of the clinical context, particularly as previous research and policy reports have suggested that this is often missed," Stewart said.
With so little research into how age affects illicit drug use, healthcare professionals may be caught unprepared. It is important to understand how people with aging physiologies and multiple prescriptions will react when these factors are mixed with illicit drugs. More worrying is the possibility of misdiagnosis due to drug use.Continued on the next page