Beer, bongs and baby boomers: the unlikely tale of drug and alcohol use in the over 50s

If you ask someone what a typical heavy drinker or drug user looks like, they’re probably more likely to evoke images of Gen Ys with tattoos and piercings than greying baby boomers.

But recent Australian data, outlined in our British Medical Journal editorial, shows rates of alcohol and drug use are actually decreasing among younger age groups, while increasing dramatically in people over the age of 50.

Not only is there a rise in the proportion of older people who regularly drink at risky levels, there are also more older people using cannabis.

So, it’s not surprising Australia’s recently released National Drug Strategy 2017-2026 identifies older people as a priority group for attention.

The data has implications not only for the health of the over 50s, but also for health professionals that diagnose and manage substance use or misuse, and the complications that can arise from it.

Evidence shows we can no longer

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