Number of older opiate users in treatment has tripled

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The increasing number of people over 40 seeking treatment is 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 ACMD will also raise concerns that this group is being failed in their recovery from substance misuse, as services are not catering for their additional 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.

Government, commissioners and services need to urgently re-assess how to best manage the complex needs of this ageing group.

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 treating older patients for opiate use.

The ACMD’s findings include:

  • the number of opiate users over 40 years old in treatment has increased from approximately 25,000 in 2006 to more than 75,000 in 2018
  • the number of opiate users in treatment under the age of 30 has decreased from approximately 60,000 to around 13,000 in the 12 years to 2017/18
  • 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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