The number of people aged over 40 in treatment for opiate use has tripled in little over a decade, according to a report from the ACMD. The number has risen from approximately 25,000 in 2006 to more than 75,000 last year.
However, the number of under-30s in opiate treatment has fallen from around 60,000 to just 13,000 over the same period, the document states. By 2017-18, only 9 per cent of ‘treated opiate users’ were under 30, while 38 per cent were in their 30s and 53 per cent were over 40. ‘Notably’, 16 per cent were over the age of 50, the report states. The rise in over-40s seeking treatment is ‘raising fears that ageing opiate users with complex needs will come to dominate demand on substance misuse services in future’, says ACMD.
Despite having ‘multiple additional risk factors’ as a result of worsening physical and mental health, ageing opiate users are less likely to have access to the resources they need, the document says. Reasons for this can include difficulty in navigating complex health and social care systems and experience of stigma, raising concerns that the group is being failed by services.
‘Specialist community drug services are insufficiently prepared to manage the complex needs of this ageing cohort, despite the increase in older drug users attending for treatment,’ says ACMD.
The council is calling for a comprehensive assessment of the ‘current skills, treatment and support’ to address the complex physical and mental health needs of this cohort, as well as ongoing analysis of treatment demographics and drug use patterns among older people.
‘This ageing cohort is likely to dominate future demand on substance misuse facilities, which is why more needs to be done now to help these people access services that meet their needs,’ said ACMD chair Dr Owen Bowden-Jones. ‘Government, commissioners and services need to urgently re-assess how to best manage the complex needs of this ageing group.’
Ageing cohort of drug users at www.gov.uk – read it here