Social Issues

Drug use among older people on rise in ‘hidden epidemic’

Madrid Desk, Mar 25 (EFE).- The prevalence of illicit drug use among older persons is on the rise as populations around the world live longer but a lack of data on the topic is hampering efforts to draw up appropriate policies and to tackle stigmatization, the International Narcotics Control board, which monitors United Nations narcotics policies, said Thursday.

In a dedicated chapter titled “A hidden epidemic: the use of drugs among older persons,” the INCB said in its Annual Report for 2020 that the upward trend in drug use among older people was likely to continue.

“This increase, mostly in high-income countries, may be the result of the aging of the ‘baby-boomer’ generation (those born between 1946 and 1964, which was a period of increased birth rates, and who came of age during a period with relatively high levels of illicit drug use and medication misuse),” it added.

It highlighted the limited epidemiological analysis of drug use among older persons, which is further complicated by the varying concepts of what qualifies as an older age category from country to country.

This is compounded by the fact that countries tend to focus drug use studies on the general population under the age of 65, the report added.

Despite this, an increase in illicit drug use in older populations was clear. In some Western countries, it added, that increase was higher than in other age groups.

“Annual prevalence data from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom show that cannabis use among those in that age group has been increasing at a higher rate than any other age group,” the report said.

A similar trend was seen in the United States.

“If the rates for some selected drugs (those for which a comparison is possible) from 2012 are compared with those from 2019, the increase in the prevalence of use among those aged 65 or older is evident.

“Between 2012 and 2019, past-year use among persons older than 65 increased three times or more for most drugs; for the population as a whole, the increase was more limited.”

Casting a look back on 2020, the report highlighted the unprecedented challenges facing older people in particular amid the Covid-19 pandemic and called on countries to offer appropriate health and social support to older drug users, who are particularly vulnerable.

It also urged for more to be done to tackle the stigma surrounding drug use, which can prevent people from coming forward for treatment.EFE


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