Invisible Addicts: booze and drug use rising in baby-boomers behind closed doors

Press release
07 March 2018

March 7 2018: Clinical services need to focus more on the needs of older people as growing numbers of baby-boomers seek help for substance misuse, according to a new report from The Royal College of Psychiatrists today.

‘Our Invisible Addicts’ highlights the burgeoning problem of substance misuse among older people. The UK now follows other developed countries in having an older population with the highest rises in rates of substance misuse.

The report highlights a problem that exists behind closed doors. With most problems going undetected, there remains a pressing need improve the diagnosis, treatment, education, training, service development and policy for all older people with substance misuse.

Deaths related to poisoning from substances in older people have more than doubled over the past decade. It is an updated revision of the original 2011 publication which was an important landmark in recognising the extent of substance related health problems in older people.

The revised edition published today makes a series of recommendations including the need to enhance training at all levels – including training more addictions psychiatrists and old age psychiatrists to manage the specific needs to older substance misusers.

Addictions consultant psychiatrist Professor Ilana Crome and Old age consultant psychiatrist Dr Tony Rao said: "In the 21st Century, substance misuse is no longer confined to younger people.The public is poorly informed about the relationship between substance misuse and health risks in older people

“We need a clear and coordinated approach to address a problem that is likely to increase further over coming decades. By improving our approach to substance misuse in older in older people from detection to continuity of care, we can also improve both quality of life and reduce mortality in a vulnerable group that deserves better.

"The working group that produced the report, co-chaired by Dr Rao and Professor Ilana, represented professionals from a wide range of clinical specialities as well as a patient with first-hand experience of alcoholism.”

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