Seniors Drug Use is a Hidden Epidemic, Experts Say

Photo licensed to The Zebra Press via Adobe Stock.

The use of drugs like painkillers among seniors aged 65 years and above is a hidden epidemic that’s growing globally. According to the International Narcotics Control Board, drug use by seniors is an emerging and worrying trend. The board reports that more seniors are misusing sedatives, tranquilizers, and pain relievers. Doctor Andy Towers from Massey University, the Health Sciences School, noted that most people assumed that people aged 65 years and above do not touch drugs. But this is not the case.

INCB notes that countries should act with speed to address this issue. What’s more, the annual report by the board pointed out that the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are also affecting the global medicines supply and the wellbeing of individuals with substance abuse and mental health disorders.

The Alarming Trend 

According to INCB, the pandemic has inflicted harm to older people’s wellbeing and health. However, drug use is a hidden epidemic, and society should not ignore its effects on this population. It’s not surprising that even people attending the online NA meetings belong to this population group.

Drug-related deaths and drug use among seniors have increased over the recent past. Also, the number of seniors undergoing treatment for drug use has increased, says the INCB President, Cornelis de Joncheere. Drug use by seniors aged 65 years and above has increased as the entire world gets older.

According to INCB, seniors in this population group have increased their use of tranquilizers, sedatives, and pain relievers. Seniors that are battling substance abuse problem face age-related issues that are unique to their demographic. Such problems include physical challenges and isolation.

The INCB recommends the input of governments in research on seniors’ drug use to reverse the alarming trend. That’s because most governments and researchers overlook this demographic in their surveys. What’s more, the report recommends improving treatment and health access for these people.

Treatment Access 

Although seniors can attend online NA meetings USA sessions, their controlled medicines demand has increased, especially during the current pandemic. That’s because the pandemic has disrupted the worldwide supply chains.

The pandemic has also affected medication and health services access for people with substance use and mental health disorders. According to INCB, governments should ensure continued access to treatment and prevention services by these populations during the current global crisis.

COVID-19 therapeutics demand has increased globally, and this has reduced some medicines availability. These medicines have controlled substances that some individuals in this demographic need. The INCB report urges countries to review forecasted demand, streamline logistical and administrative requirements to improve seniors’ access to such treatments.

Emerging Drug Trade Online 

According to the INCB report, the pandemic by-products include the emerging drug trade taking place online. Some organized criminal gangs are using encrypted communication to perpetuate this trade.

Some substance users are using social media, the dark web, and other online forums to acquire illicit substances. Physical distancing and travel restriction measures have affected the availability of some drugs. What’s more, these measures have increased the prices of some medicines in the dark markets. The number of people reporting overdose cases has also increased because of illicit drugs’ decreased purity.

People attending 24 hour NA chat rooms online have also noted increased synthetic opioid use. Worth noting is fentanyl, whose number of users has increased recently. In Afghanistan, drug control remains a deteriorating situation. And this should be a concern for other countries. This country had almost 85% of worldwide opium production within five years. And the illicit drug production in the country was still high in 2019.

According to the INCB, the international community should provide financial and technical assistance to control illicit drugs. Joncheere warned that if the production and cultivation of illegal drugs, their use, and trafficking continue without comprehensive measures to address it, broader efforts towards sustainable development, peace, and prosperity of Afghanistan won’t be practical.

More Revealing Data 

Worldwide data indicates that self-medication, prescription drug misuse, and illicit drug abuse by people aged 65 and above are rising. The basis of what experts know is evidence from departmental reviews that show an increasing trend over the past 10 to 15 years. People in this age bracket are also abusing alcohol, which has led to other concerns and injuries. What’s more, this is a concern for people using prescription medications.

Globally, a significant reason for the rising concern regarding drug misuse and use rate among older adults is the baby boomer demographic transitioning into the senior adult bracket of 65 plus. Essentially, it’s not that people in their 80s and 90s have suddenly begun using fentanyl or cannabis. It’s only that baby boomers that are retiring have been abusing or using drugs.

These individuals popularized drugs during the 60s and 70s and have continued using them until now. However, they are older and can’t stop using drugs. And this explains the increasing alcohol dependence and misuse instances. Although some of these individuals enjoy the benefits of NA meetings, others are in retirement villages or retirement settings. And some managers of retirement settings don’t know how to address the issue since they don’t have a playbook to help them deal with that.

research summary by New Zealand Health Promotion Agency indicates that 40 percent of individuals aged 50 years and above in this country are hazardous drinkers. That means these people are bingeing most of the time. Some are drinking a lot of alcohol, thereby increasing their risk of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

Cannabis use among the same age group is also on the rise. Most people in this age bracket use cannabis daily, weekly, or even monthly. And this is the case everywhere.

Final Thoughts 

Most people don’t think people aged 65 years and above could abuse drugs. However, an increasing number of individuals in this age bracket are attending NA support groups online. That’s because they are battling substance use or abuse disorders. And the number of drug users in this demographic is increasing. INCB has, therefore, urged governments to increase their efforts to curb the increasing rates of drug use and trafficking among their citizens.

RELATED: Alexandrians Drop Off Over 200 Pounds of Drugs