NHS statistics revealed that 14 UK residents over the ripe age of 90 were admitted to the hospital in the year up until April, which is nine higher than the previous year. These results were a considerable increase compared to a decade ago when the number of people over 90 suffering from cocaine-induced brain issues was a mere two.
Instances of cocaine-related hospital admissions in elderly have soared over the last decade
Fourteen people may not seem like a huge number, especially when compared to the hordes of those in their youth who like to dabble in freebasing, but it’s definitely a signal of a much larger problem.
The NHS stats also showed admissions of over 60s for primary or secondary diagnosis of ‘mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cocaine’ has risen by 518% since 2010/11, going from 67 to 414 admissions.
Those aged 60-69 saw the most significant increase in cocaine-related admissions with 516 this year compared to 51 ten years ago.
Last year saw a total of 12,564 admissions for mental disorders caused by cocaine, compared to 4,875 a decade ago. However, most of these cases were from people aged 20-39.
Why are pensioners turning to drugs?
Dr David Bremner, a consultant addictions psychiatrist at Turning Point, told The Sunday Express that the reason why we’re seeing such increased instances of cocaine abuse in the elderly is simply that drug users are living longer:
Widespread use of a harm-reduction approach over the years has helped people stay safe and live longer. As a result, we have a cohort of older people that with complex needs coming to us for support.
Dr Bremmer continued: ‘As with any drug, the impact of long-term cocaine use will affect mental health in a range of ways, from anxiety and depression and up to severe mental illnesses such as psychotic illness.’
Turning Point would encourage anyone, themselves or loved ones, who is using drugs to talk to their GP or local drug and alcohol service, no matter their age.
According to Jan Gerber, who runs Paracelsus Recovery in London and Zurich, older adults aren’t just deciding to party away their final years or relive their rambunctious youth; some have turned to the drug to deal with some complicated feelings that are common in later life:
We believe it is for similar reasons that alcohol and medication abuse is common among older people - to medicate physical pain, loneliness, end-of-life anxiety.
Karen Tyrell, from the drug charity Addaction, spoke to The Times about a similar issue back in 2019 stating: 'We need to shift the narrative to let people know that it’s OK to ask for help or support at a much earlier stage.'