By Alice Philipson
A record number of pensioners are being admitted to hospital after taking recreational drugs as the Swinging Sixties generation reaches old age, new figures have shown.
Nearly 900 people aged 65 and over received hospital treatment last year after taking illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines.
David Raynes, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, told The Sunday Times: “We are getting to the period where people who grew up in the Sixties are of that age.
“People who have used drugs their whole lives will start to hit the NHS.”
The figures, published by the NHS, show more than half of the drug admissions involve men and women aged 75 and over – pensioners who would have been in their twenties during the era of experimental drug taking.
In total, 888 pensioners were diagnosed as being poisoned by illegal drugs in English hospitals last year, with 473 aged 75 and over.
A decade ago the number was 283.
Harry Shapiro, of DrugScope, warned drug treatment should prepare for an influx of ageing drug users.
“Drug and alcohol treatment services need to be adequately resourced to deal with this ageing client group,” he said.
A separate study by King’s College London found cannabis, cocaine and amphetamine use by people aged over 50 had risen dramatically since the early 1990s.
It predicted that illicit drug taking would become more common in pensioners over the next two decades.
Study co-author Robert Stewart said the explanation could be that “these people would have grown up during ages when it was considered more acceptable”.
However, many celebrity figures who glamorised drug taking in the 60s have announced they are giving up to pursue healthier lifestyles.
Sir Paul McCartney said last year it was finally time to give up smoking cannabis due to a “sense of responsibility” in caring for his daughter Beatrice, then aged eight.
The former Beatle said: “I smoked my share. When you’re bringing up a youngster, your sense of responsibility does kick in, if you’re lucky, at some point.
“Enough’s enough – you just don’t seem to think it’s necessary.”