Social services face a new challenge from rising numbers of ageing substance misusers who started taking drugs in the 1960s, research has found.
Those who continue using drugs into their 50s and 60s face chronic health problems and a reduced quality of life, placing demands on services, the study in the September issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing said.
“Despite this, services for older drug addicts are not widely available or accessed in the UK,” said lead author Brenda Roe, professor of health research at Edge Hill University.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction estimates that the number of people aged 65 and over requiring treatment in Europe will double from 2000-2020.
The latest study was based on interviews with 11 people aged 49 to 61 in contact with voluntary sector drug treatment services. Most started taking drugs as young people or young adults, often starting with experimental use in the 1960s as part of the “hippy era”. All were single or divorced and drug use was a common factor in relationship breakdowns. Most lived alone, with three relying on carers who were also drug users.
They were positive about the services they received from voluntary drug services but had mixed experiences of primary and hospital care with some feeling stigmatised by healthcare professionals.
“Our population is ageing and the people who started using drugs in the sixties are now reaching retirement age,” said Roe. “It is clear that further research is needed to enable health and social care professionals to develop appropriate services for this increasingly vulnerable group.”