Drug Abuse Skyrockets Among U.K. Elderly

By Paul Gaita 12/12/13

The drastic rise in elderly users is in part attributed to the permissive attitudes toward drugs in the 1960s.

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Drug abuse has tripled among UK pensioners, or residents over the age of 65, according to a recent survey from the National Health Service (NHS).

Nearly 900 men and women within that age group required hospital treatment after overdosing on illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines, with more than half of those admissions for people over the age of 75. The survey, based on information culled from 4,000 households, corroborates information taken from another recent study by King’s College London, which reported drug use among residents over the age of 50 had risen dramatically since 1993 and will most likely continue to rise over the next two decades.

Robert Stewart, who co-authored the research for the King’s College study, noted that the cause of this sudden rise in usage could be linked to the permissive attitude towards drug use in the 1960s – the decade in which most of the individuals in question would have been in their 20s and at the height of their experimental phase. “The assumption is that these people would have grown up during ages when [recreational drug use] was considered more acceptable,” he said. Both Stewart and the UK charity DrugScope have stated that more resources are needed to provide treatment services to the pensioner demographic. “The hospitalization of pensioners through drug use is going to get more common,” Stewart said.

The survey and report come on the heels of a much-publicized case from earlier this month in which a 63-year-old woman and her husband were found to be part of a £1 million heroin network operating across Devon and Cornwall.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.