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Cocaine takes mental health toll on elderly

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The data for England shows that people aged 60 and over were admitted with a primary or secondary diagnoses of “mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cocaine” on 414 occasions in 2020-21. This is up from 67 in 2010-11 ‑ a 518 percent increase.

There were 315 admissions aged 60-69, a rise of 516 percent from 10 years ago when there were 51.

The number between 70 and 79 went up by more than seven times, from nine to 79 cases. Between 80 and 89 it increased from three to six, and in those 90 and over it rose from four to 14.

Overall, the number of all ages being treated soared from 4,875 to 12,564, a jump of 158 percent.

Experts say that this can be attributed to an ageing population, as well as drug-users living longer.

Dr David Bremner, a consultant addictions psychiatrist at health care provider Turning Point, said: “Drug and alcohol services are having to adapt to meet the needs of an ageing population. 

“Widespread use of a harm-reduction approach over the years has helped people stay safe and live longer. As a result, we have a cohort of older people with complex needs coming to us for support.

“As with any drug, the impact of long-term cocaine use will affect mental health in a range of ways, from anxiety and depression and up to severe mental illnesses, such as psychotic illness.

“Turning Point would encourage anyone, themselves or loved ones, who is using drugs to talk to their GP or local drug and alcohol service, no matter their age.”

Rachel Britton, at addiction charity With You, added that those with mental health conditions may turn to cocaine and similar substances for short-term elation.

However, she added: “Distressing feelings can get worse, with both ‘rebound anxiety’ and paranoia being linked to coming off drugs such as cocaine.”

She urged those needing help to contact With You online or in person.

The Department of Health has been approached for comment.

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