There has been a warning that older people in Cornwall are at increasing risk from their use of drugs and alcohol.

One in five older men and one in ten older women drink enough to harm themselves, a rise of 40 per cent in men and 100 per cent in women over the past 20 years. About a third of OAPs with drink problems develop them for the first time in later life.

A recent study highlighted that illicit drug use amongst older people is likely to become more common as generations that use drugs more frequently reach an older age.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Adult Drugs Needs Assessment 2012/13 highlighted that there are now fewer younger users of opiates and crack cocaine and more older clients who have been using for many years and who have had several previous experiences of treatment. The treatment population is becoming increasingly older with "more complex needs".

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Drug and Alcohol Action Team, Addaction Cornwall, and the Public Health and Community Safety teams of Cornwall Council are using Older People’s Day today to get the message across about this growing issue.

Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health, said: "As the population of older people in Cornwall grows, what we don’t want to see is the problems associated with drink and drugs also increasing. The effects are often greater for older people and it becomes more difficult for people to deal with them."

In line with national trends, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Alcohol Needs Assessment highlighted that Cornwall's population is getting older as average life expectancy continues to rise and it is estimated that by 2033, one in four people will be aged 65 and over.

There are range of health problems associated with substance misuse such as high rates of increased blood pressure, heart problems, reduced mobility, sensory deficit, mental and behavioural disorders. In addition there are practical problems such as reduced coping skills and impaired self care and emotional and social problems such as bereavement and loss of friends and social status.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in their report entitled ‘Our Invisible Addicts’ stated ‘Both alcohol and illicit drugs are among the top ten risk factors for mortality and morbidity in Europe and substance misuse by older people is now a growing public health problem.

Between 2001 and 2031, there is projected to be a 50 per cent increase in the number of older people in the UK. The percentage of men and women drinking more than the weekly recommended limits has also risen, by 60 per cent in men and 100 per cent in women between 1990 and 2006 (NHS Information Centre, 2009a).

What can people do themselves?

  • Basic safe drinking message: Recommended safe alcohol limits: For men: 3-4 units a day, max 21 units a week.
  • For women: two  units a day, max 14 units a week.
  • And for everyone, two periods of 24 hours free from alcohol each week.
  • You can assess your own alcohol risk-level at by clicking here:
  • If you want to find out how many units of alcohol there are in your favourite drinks, as well as suggested tactics to help stop you drinking too much if you’re trying to cut back, you can do so here: or here:

• Give your body a breather by cutting down or stopping drinking for a few weeks.

• This will also check that you are in control of your drinking.

• This will also reduce your calories and save you money.

If you are worried about your drinking and/or drug use you can contact Addaction Cornwall on 01872 263001. For an information pack, contact Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Drug and Alcohol Action Team on 01726 223400.