Number of older opiate users in treatment has tripled

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The number of people over 40 seeking treatment for opiate misuse has increased three-fold over the last 12 years, raising fears that ageing opiate users with complex needs will come to dominate demand on substance misuse services in future.

In its advice to the Home Secretary today, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will also raise concerns that this group is increasingly being failed in their recovery from substance abuse, as services are not catering for their additional complex needs.

Chair of the ACMD, Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, said:

This ageing cohort is likely to dominate future demand on substance misuse facilities which is why more needs to be done now to help these people access services that meet their needs.

Services need to be urgently improved to better manage the complex needs of this ageing group now and in the future.

The ACMD commissioned the report to investigate the changing age profiles of those seeking treatment for drug use and explain why current services are not meeting their needs.

The report focuses on drug services particularly treating older patients for opiate/opioid use.

Among the ACMD’s finding include:

  • the number of opiate users in treatment over 40 has increased from approximately 25,000 in 2006 to more than 75,000 in 2018
  • ageing drug users are less likely to have access to the resources they need to manage the complex needs of this group
  • the death rate for opioid users increases the older the user

Recommendations by the ACMD also include:

  • an assessment of the current skills, treatment and support to address the complex physical and mental health issues of older drug users
  • in order to better understand how best to provide support and services to the ageing cohort, ongoing analysis of treatment demographics and drug use habits among older people

The ACMD’s full report can be found on GOV.UK: Ageing cohort of drug users

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