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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
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

    Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

    £30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

    Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

    Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

    Day In a Page

    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
    Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

    What are Jaden and Willow on about?

    Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
    Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

    Cold war

    How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
    Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

    Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

    From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
    Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

    Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

    New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
    Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

    Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

    ‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
    Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

    Isis takes a big step back

    Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
    Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

    Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

    Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

    How to shop politically

    Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
    The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

    Sex on the brain

    Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection