United Kingdom

Number of hospital admissions for over-50s with cocaine poisoning has risen tenfold in a decade

The number of hospital admissions for people aged over 50 needing treatment for cocaine poisoning has risen tenfold in a decade, astonishing new figures reveal.

Statistics from NHS Digital show that there were 268 admissions of over-50s using the drug last year, compared with just 27 cases in 2009-2010.

There were four times as many admissions involving people aged over 40 for the drug last year as were ten years ago. A decade ago there were 209 admissions for over-40s but that rose to 982 last year.

The figures also reveal there were 41 cases last year of cocaine-poisoning admissions of those aged over 60, including six patients aged 90 or more.

In total, there were 4,341 admissions linked to the class-A drug last year, with more than half of the cases involving patients above the age of 30.

Statistics from NHS Digital show that there were 268 admissions of over-50s using cocaine (stock image) last year, compared with just 27 cases in 2009-2010

There were four times as many admissions involving people aged over 40 for the drug last year as were ten years ago. A decade ago there were 209 admissions for over-40s but that rose to 982 last year

Cocaine can cause anxiety and paranoia, hallucinations and chest pains and can ultimately be fatal.

In the last complete year for which there are official fatality figures – 2018 – there were 637 cocaine-related deaths in the UK – double the number for just three years before.

The Government’s advisory council on the misuse of drugs recently warned older drug abusers they are putting themselves at increased danger of a range of health risks including heart attacks, fits and strokes. The drug can also cause violent behaviour.

Once characterised as the preserve of bankers and celebrities, research shows cocaine has become far more widely used as the price has plummeted since the 1990s. The drug is now so cheap that one dose – known as ‘a line’ – can cost as little as £2. Drug gangs selling cocaine rake in hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Their network of ‘county lines’ is estimated to involve 10,000 children in the transportation of drugs across the country. The illegal trade is closely linked to the epidemic of ‘Wild West Britain’ violent crime on the nation’s streets.

Some of the ageing users will be those who have carried the habits of their earlier years into later life.They may be turning to the drug not just for recreational purposes but also as a misconceived way of coping with the stresses of modern life, according to experts.

In the last complete year for which there are official fatality figures – 2018 – there were 637 cocaine-related deaths in the UK – double the number for just three years before (stock image of hospital)

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a drug policy reform charity, said: ‘This worrying trend reflects the rising purity and availability of cocaine we have seen in recent years. There has also been an increase in cocaine-related deaths.

‘These problems are closely linked to the fact that cocaine prices have plummeted recently, while purity has increased by two or three times.

‘Cocaine is now cheaper, stronger and easier to buy than ever for people of all ages. Cocaine is also often taken with other drugs,’ he added. ‘In particular, it can also lead to people drinking more and for longer, which significantly increases health risks.’

Laura Bunt, acting chief executive officer at drug, alcohol and mental health charity Addaction, said: ‘Cocaine is cheaper, stronger and easier to buy than ever before.

‘At the same time, more and more people are feeling uncertain of their place in the world and unsure of what the future holds, with cocaine offering a really powerful short-term confidence boost.

‘Increasing hospital admissions show we need much better education around the potential harms of cocaine.’