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HomeWorldDrug Use Among Older Persons A ‘Hidden Epidemic’, Narcotics Experts Warn

Drug Use Among Older Persons A ‘Hidden Epidemic’, Narcotics Experts Warn

Drug use among older people globally has risen in
recent years and countries must act to address this
“hidden epidemic”, the International Narcotics Control
Board (
said in its annual report, issued on

The independent expert body also
highlighted the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic
is having on the global supply of medicines, and on the
well-being of people with mental health and substance abuse

An ‘alarming trend’

pandemic has caused great harm to the health and the
well-being of older people. However, there is also a hidden
epidemic of drug use affecting this population group. Drug
use and drug-related deaths among older people have been on
the rise, as has the number of older people in treatment for
drug use problems,” said
Cornelis de Joncheere, the INCB President.

As the
world grows older, drug use among people over 65 has also
grown. The
found increased use of pain relievers,
tranquilizers and sedatives among this demographic. Older
people with substance use problems also face unique
age-related issues, including isolation or physical

To reverse this “alarming trend”, the
INCB has recommended that governments step up research on
drug use among older persons, who are largely overlooked in
drug use surveys, and improve access to health and treatment
services for them.


Meanwhile, demand for some controlled
medicines has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, which
has also caused disruptions in global supply chains. Health
services and access to medication, including for persons
with mental health and substance use disorders, have been
affected. The INCB underscored that governments must ensure
these populations have continued access to prevention and
treatment services during the global crisis.

rising demand for COVID-19 therapeutics further reducing the
availability of some medicines that contain controlled
substances, countries are urged to review their forecasted
demand for these treatments, and to streamline
administrative and logistical requirements.

online drug trade

The INCB reported on other
by-products of the pandemic, such as the growth in online
drug dealing through encrypted communications by organized
crime groups.

Drug users are also using the dark web,
social media and online forums to obtain illicit substances.
Travel restrictions and physical distancing measures have
also led to shortages of some drugs, and higher prices on
the illicit market. At the same time, overdose rates have
risen due to the decreased purity of illicit drug supplies
and use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

deteriorating drug control situation in Afghanistan
continues to be a concern. The country accounted for nearly
85 per cent of global opium production over the past five
years, and illicit production remained high during

The INCB urged the international community to
provide technical and financial assistance to support drug
control efforts there.

“If illicit drug cultivation
and production, drug trafficking, drug use and drug use
disorders in Afghanistan are not comprehensively addressed,
broader efforts on sustainable development, prosperity and
peace in Afghanistan are unlikely to be effective,” Mr. de

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