Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist December 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist December 2014 I © Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
The rise in illicit drug use, particularly
cannabis, among the older generation
cannot always be passed off as being a
simple form of self-medication for pain relief
or for relaxation.
Michael O’Neill, Chief Executive of National
Seniors Australia, said the extent of the rise in
illicit drug use among the ageing may come
as a surprise to many in the community.
‘I am surprised at the level of increase and
it’s much higher than most people would
have anticipated but perhaps that reflects
that we have broadly underestimated the
significance of the change in the population
and the numbers coming through,’ he said.
‘It’s a generational thing and it reflects to
some extent their cultural experience which
is more likely to be the cause of their drug
use than anything else.
‘But this is also a generation that is looking
for alternative therapies for pain-related
conditions and that may encourage some of
them to go down the cannabis route.’
Mr O’Neill said any ‘any illicit drug use is
certainly an issue to be concerned about’.
‘ The community sets its standards and then
it’s a question of people abiding by them.
‘At the end of the day however, people of that
age cohort need to make their own decisions.
‘However as people age, they may be
unaware of potential changes to the way
they respond to cannabis use. Therefore
it is important that older people are
informed about interactions with prescribed
medications, the harmful effects of cannabis
smoke on their respiratory system, and the
possibility of exposure to criminal activity
and elder abuse.’
The ADF’s John Rogerson said there was a
noticeable rise in the use of cannabis for
non-medical purposes, particularly among
‘ We have seen an increase in drug use in this
older age group but we are also seeing it in
other groups as well, particularly in the non-
medical use of pharmaceuticals,’ he said
‘ This presents another problem, that of
getting more accurate information around
the use of drugs in older people.
‘ We need a lot more information before
we can devise strategies of how to deal
with this. We absolutely need to change
strategies. Getting clear and accurate
information is a problem across all age
groups, not just older people.’
Mr Rogerson said the latest AIHW survey
was just one piece of data on the subject
and more information was needed.
‘ We must have more than just one survey that
points the way as to how we deal with this
issue properly. There is not a lot of information
around about older people to help us deal
with the issues,’ Mr Rogerson said.
‘ We have the same issues around legal drugs
and we know from all the information we
have at present that the big issues in our
communities today are around legal drugs –
‘ We have to get better information and then
put in place long-term prevention strategies
to deal with these issues. At the moment
we just fight fire when a piece of data
comes out but we actually have to have an
integrated strategy that is put into place and
that we are committed to.’
Mr Rogerson said older people had to be
role models to some extent but it was wrong
to single out the ageing population as
setting a bad example.
‘ We don’t want to let kids and grandkids see
their grandparents using illicit drugs, or any
sort of drugs for that matter, but older
people are more careful and circumspect.
They want to be good role models,’ he said.
Pharmacist Angelo Pricolo says the current
statistics on increased illicit drug use
among the ageing need to be understood
so society and the healthcare sector can
prepare for the issues that may arise.
‘ We know there are well-documented
problems created by smoking cannabis and
many also see it as a gateway drug to other
illicit substances like heroin and cocaine. This is
potentially an issue at any age,’ Mr Pricolo said.
‘It is illegal so we can’t just say let them do
it. Also smoking cannabis has associated
health risks as it is roughly equivalent to
cigarette smoke in terms of the carcinogens
you get in your lungs. We are trying to get
people in their sixties to stop smoking
“We don’t want
to let kids and
dr ugs, or any
sort of drugs for
that matter, but
older people are
more careful and
They want to be
good role models.”
Australian Drug Foundation
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