Drug Use among older people on an increase

Terrorism, both foreign and domestic, remains a top threat to the Homeland, according to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a report.

Drug use among older people has risen alarmingly across the globe in recent years and the countries must take major steps to address this hidden epidemic, according to the annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

The INCB that publicised the report on Thursday also highlighted the negative impact Covid 19 is having on global supply of medicines and on the well-being of people with substance abuse disorders and mental health.

Noting that Covid 19 pandemic had devastating impact on the society, INCB President Cornelis P de Joncheere said that 2020 was a year unlike any other in recent history. “At a time when resources are already stretched, people affected by drug use disorders must not be left behind. INCB calls on Governments to ensure that services for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation continue to be provided, he said.

He noted that INCB was concerned about legislative developments in a number of countries regarding the non-medical use of cannabis. The INCB president stressed that the Board continued to impress on Governments to implement the international drug control conventions with full respect for human rights standards and norms. Lack of data though Increased substance misuse among older people

The report notes that drug use among older people increased at a faster rate than among younger groups over the past decade. The INCB said that data from Europe and United States showed that substance abuse increased mainly in high-income countries and could be the result of the baby-boomer generation coming of age. (Baby boomers are people bom between 1946 and 1964). However, the report points to gaps in epidemiological data for older people, particularly for lower-income countries. The report notes that the use of cannabis increased from 1.2 per cent in 2012 to 5.1 per cent in 2019 in the United States. It said that people over 65 years of age in the United States account for 30 per cent of all medical prescriptions, although they only make up 10 per cent of the general population.drug

The Report said that use of non-medical pharmaceutical opioids and cough syrup among the 45-64 age group in India and Nigeria increased. Nigeria showed considerable use of tranquillizers. The report points out that a study in Japan showed that prescriptions for sleep and anxiety disorders were disproportionately high among the older population.

Lack of attention of Government

The INCR report pointed out that there was general lack of attention by Governments to substance use among older people. As such, only limited drug prevention and treatment programmes are available to this age group.


The use of drugs among older people make them vulnerable to several health issues like respiratory problems, liver disease, degenerative diseases, chronic mental health challenges and diabetes. They might also find difficulty in conducting activities in daily life. The older people are also at a higher risk of death from overdose, disease and suicide.drug

Prior areas to combat drug use

Aimed at tackling drug abuse, the INCB recommends: –

  • Existing monitoring systems be used to the fullest extent to gain better understanding of the demand for treatment.
  • Monitoring systems be extended to prescription and over-the-counter medications to reduce multiple prescriptions and prescription-shopping
  • The common upper age limit of 65 be removed from general monitoring systems to include older people.
  • Countries consider innovative and new care technologies.
  • Medical personnel receive training to accurately recognize substance abuse in older people and be able to differentiate between similar symptoms of other illnesses and give age-sensitive care,
  • Training to address



A growing number of countries in Africa are now permitting or are planning to permit the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes. Many parts of Africa face the continuing problem of illicitly manufactured tramadol and its abuse. Many countries in Africa do not systematically collect data on drug use or on availability of controlled substances for medical use.


Measures implemented by Governments in the region in response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in decreased drug trafficking. More monitoring of synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances needed.

North America

Drug overdoses and deaths continue to fuel a regional drug crisis. Cannabis legalization measures and decriminalization initiatives in North America continue to evolve and shape the regular market for cannabis.

South America

The COVID-19 pandemic affected trafficking and micro-trafficking techniques as well as the supply of and demand for controlled substances. Cocaine manufacture potential in Colombia increased by 1.5 per cent in 2019 despite a decrease in the area under coca bush cultivation. Manufacture and presence of synthetic drugs is on the rise in South America, particularly in Chile.


East and South-East Asia

Increase in illicit manufacture, trafficking and use of synthetic drugs

South Asia

Increased trafficking in heroin and methamphetamine. Increase in the use of inhalants among street children.

West Asia

Afghanistan’s illicit production of opium remained high in 2020. COVID-19 pandemic impacted drug use patterns.


COVID-19 pandemic boosted the use of the Internet and darknet to buy drugs illegally. Illicit synthetic drug manufacture increasingly taking place in Eastern Europe, Cannabis and cocaine are the most commonly used drugs in Europe


Growing domestic demand for methamphetamine and cocaine.



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