In Brief

Steep rise in older Britons hospitalised for drug abuse

Number of middle-aged patients suffering drug-related mental disorders has surged by 85% over the past decade

NHS hospitals have seen a massive increase in the number of middle-aged and older people being admitted for drug misuse, according to a new report by the health service.

The latest annual statistics for England reveal that admissions of people aged 45 and above for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders have almost doubled since 2007, from 638 to 1,182, compared with only a 1% increase for those aged under 45. Typical symptoms include “hallucinations, confusion, extreme agitation and disinhibition”, The Guardian reports. 

Hospital admissions for poisoning as a result of drug misuse has increased by 32% over the past six years among people aged 55 and above.

And around one in three drug-related deaths registered in 2017 were of people aged between 40 and 49, higher than any other age group.

Experts have warned that so-called baby boomers are in denial over alcohol and drug abuse, and are less likely to accept they have a problem than younger people, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian says that the figures have also “prompted experts to claim that controversial changes in the Government’s approach to drug addiction”, which now emphasises abstinence over harm reduction, has led to the rise in admissions.

“It is clear from this data that older people are suffering the consequences of cuts made to drug treatment services over recent years,” said Ian Hamilton, associate professor of addiction at the University of York. 

“They are more likely to have had longer drug-using careers, so they will need longer in specialist drug treatment. However, unfortunately, treatment services are being directed to offer abstinence-based services rather than maintaining this group on substitute drugs like methadone.”

Hamilton suggested that naloxone, a medication that can block the effect of opioids following a potentially fatal overdose, should be more readily available, along with “safe injection facilities” where users can inject drugs in a hygienic environment.

Last year there were a total of 2,503 drug-related deaths in England - a slight decrease from 2016 (2,596), but a 38% increase from 2007 (1,809).

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