Growing old disgracefully? Baby boomers in the UK are downing far larger quantities of illicit drugs than their parents ever did, especially cannabis. A similar pattern has emerged in the US.
Robert Stewart of King's College London and colleagues found that 11.4 per cent of 50 to 64-year-olds in the UK have tried cannabis. Just 1.7 per cent of their parents' generation did.
“Our data suggest at the very least that large numbers of people are entering older age groups with lifestyles about which we know little, in terms of their effects on health,” says Stewart. He adds that the results should allow medical and social services to plan how they will care for elderly people who may take illicit drugs. In younger users, cannabis has been linked to psychotic illness and other health problems.
David Nutt of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research, says the findings make sense because baby boomers are more familiar with drugs than earlier generations.
Stewart says that the pattern for the baby boomers is likely to be repeated in future generations. “I don't believe any generation has been found to use drugs less frequently than the previous generation, so the increase in use and exposure is likely to continue.”