It’s no secret Baby Boomers like to have a good time, but their increasing use of alcohol and drugs is sparking concern across the medical field.
An editorial by researchers at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Flinders University in Australia published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Tuesday says number of people aged over 50 experiencing problems from substance misuse is growing rapidly, with the numbers receiving treatment expected to treble in the United States and double in Europe by 2020.
Global trends have indicated that alcohol and drug usage in declining in all age groups except for over-50s, who are experiencing increasing rates of addiction and overdose.
In Australia, the largest percentage increase in drug misuse between 2013 and 2016 was among people aged 60 and over, with this age group mainly misusing prescription drugs.
However, researchers noted that people over 50 also have higher rates than younger age groups for both past year and lifetime illicit drug misuse – most notably, cannabis.
Professor Robin Room from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University said it used to be a commonplace that people cut down their drinking in their 50s, but that’s not the case anymore.
“One reason that people don’t cut down may be simply that people in their 60s and 70s are in better health than in previous generations,” Professor Room said.
“But regular drinking of ‘a few drinks’ at such ages is almost certainly worse for your health than at younger ages.”
The research published in the BMJ calls for an international approach to improve clinicians’ approach to assessing and treating substance abuse in older people.
“There remains an urgent need for better drug treatments for older people with substance misuse, more widespread training, and above all a stronger evidence base for both prevention and treatment,” they wrote.
“The clinical complexity of older adults with substance misuse demands new solutions to a rapidly growing problem. So far, there has been little sign of a coordinated international approach to integrated care.”
The revelation follows recent reports that Australian doctors are drastically overprescribing patients opioids and antibiotics.