The more permissive attitudes and lack of public health advice are coming home to roost for a generation of older Britons
When I joined a community mental health team for older people 20 years ago, addiction wasn’t a central part of our work. One of our first referrals was for an alcoholic patient threatened with eviction. It was rejected – it wasn’t relevant to our service, or so I thought. But over the years the referrals combining social problems and addiction kept coming. We would bat the problems back to the GP, yet the same patients would be referred years later for depression and dementia. Their issues hadn’t gone away; if anything, they had worsened.
It was a salutary lesson that led me to join forces with a group of professionals and delve more deeply into the problem of drug and alcohol addiction in older people. As we dug into the data, a pattern began to emerge of substance misuse among those born between 1946 and 1964: the so-called “baby boomers”. Their higher rates of addiction than in older or younger generations are coming home to roost, with implications for public health and clinical services.
Tony Rao is a consultant old-age psychiatrist and author of the book Soul Trader
Drugs, Older people, Society, Alcohol, Alcoholism, Health, UK news UK news | The Guardian