It’s not uncommon for youngsters to be accused of using alcohol and drugs to excess, but recent studies suggest that our older generations are actually the worst offenders when it comes to substance abuse.
While the wild antics of older Australians don’t typically make the evening news, reports suggest that it’s older people who are ramping up their use of drugs and alcohol, while other age groups are slowing down.
SBS News reports that alcohol consumption is currently on the decline for all age groups in the UK and Australia – except for people who are aged 40 and over.
Recent data published by the British Medical Journal found that one in four people aged between 50 and 59 were drinking at risky levels.
In simple terms, this would mean drinking more than 11 standard drinks in a single session. The SBS report said that the number of people drinking more than 11 drinks regularly increased between 2004 and 2013, with a massive leap last year.
“In 2016, 11.9 per cent of 50-59 year olds drank at high-risk levels at least yearly (up from 9.1 per cent in 2013)” it said. “A total of 5.8 per cent did so at least monthly (up from 4.1 per cent).”
This means that around 755,394 older Australians are regularly drinking at risky levels, with SBS suggesting it’s because they have more cash to splash, making alcohol a more affordable luxury.
An ABC news report in August also said that Aussie seniors were hitting drugs harder than younger generations.
Citing research from South London Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Flinders University in Adelaide, the ABC reported that the biggest percentage increase in drug misuse between 2013 and 201 6 was among people aged 60 and older. Australians aged over 50 also had higher overall rates of illicit drug use than younger people. The age group was particularly fond of marijuana, the study found.
For older Aussies, the risk isn’t just that they’ll do something they regret while under the influence – alcohol can also mix badly with prescribed medication, which we’re more likely to be taking in our later years.
Steve Allsop from the National Drug Research Institute at Curtain University told the ABC that increasing drug and alcohol use would likely result in more health problems among older Australians, hitting the resources of care services.
“The increase in the proportion of Australians over the age of 50, levels of alcohol and other drug consumption, and the particular risks for ageing Australians sees this issue impact on our drug specialist and our aged care services across our country,” he said.
The results found that while alcohol consumption rates were increasing, though, it didn’t automatically suggest that everyone who drank had a problem.
“Not all older people who use alcohol and/or drugs have problems,” the ABC report said. “Older people, like other age groups, use alcohol and drugs in many different ways and for many different reasons.”