One foot in the rave: middle-age drug use rising

Illicit drug use among over-50s has risen sharply as the greying hippie generation ages

They were the flower children of the Sixties who turned on, tuned in and dropped out. Four decades on, older but not necessarily wiser, they are still getting stoned on a regular basis.

Illicit drug use among the over-50s has risen tenfold since the mid-Nineties as the hippie generation has become the bus pass generation. Researchers say the growth of drug use among the middle aged and elderly has been long suspected but never investigated and its effects on the ageing brain are unknown.

Almost one in 10 Londoners in their sixth decade is regularly puffing on a joint, snorting a line of cocaine or dropping a tab of acid, according to the findings based on two household surveys of almost 4,000 people. The commonest drug used was cannabis but there were clear differences between those over and under the age of 65, and between London and the rest of the country.

In inner London 9 per cent of those aged 50 to 64 reported using cannabis in the past 12 months compared with 1.8 per cent elsewhere. Among the over-65s, usage rates were 1.1 per cent in London and 0.4 per cent elsewhere in England.

Other drugs also figured but at lower rates. In London one in 200 over-50s reported taking cocaine, ecstasy or LSD, with fewer using magic mushrooms, amyl nitrate ("poppers") or amphetamines. The commonest drug after cannabis taken illicitly was tranquillisers – a legacy, perhaps, of the habit among a previous generation of family doctors of prescribing them for every ill. Professor Robert Stewart of the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, who led the study published in Age and Ageing, said: "The key message of this paper confirms something that has been long suspected but which has not, to our knowledge, ever been formally investigated in the UK, namely that illicit drug use will become more common in older generations over the next one to two decades.

"We know very little about the effects of drugs like cannabis in older people and we will need to work fast if research is to keep up with its wider use at these ages. Our data suggest large numbers of people are entering old age with lifestyles about which we know little in terms of their effects on health. Health service staff providing care for older people should be aware of the possibility of illicit drug use as previous research suggests this has often been missed."

The scale of the change between generations is revealed in figures showing over five times more people under 65 had ever tried cannabis (11.4 per cent), compared with those who were older (1.7 per cent). Londoners were much more likely to be familiar with cannabis with 9.4 per cent over 65 and 42.8 per cent under 65 saying they had tried it.

The authors say the link between drug use and risk of neurodegenerative disorders has been little studied and long-term effects need to be examined.

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a global leader in the Oil &a...

    SAP Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000. Wakefield

    £55000 - £450000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Consultant...

    PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

    IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn