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[Irish Medical Times] European opioid users are ‘ageing cohort’. (11 Jun 2015)


The average age of opioid users entering treatment in Europe increased by five years between 2006 and 2013, a new report has revealed.

The European Drugs Report 2015 found that a significant number of opioid users in Europe with a history of long-term polydrug use were now in their 40s and 50s and as a result were particularly susceptible to a range of chronic health conditions.

“Clinical guidelines that take account of the demographic shift in Europe’s problem opioid users are needed,” the report published last week stated. These would support effective clinical practice and cover issues such as: drug interactions; take-home dosages of substitution treatment medications (for example methadone or buprenorphine); managing pain; and treating infections.

While few countries reported the availability of targeted programmes for older drug users, the report found that Germany and the Netherlands had set up retirement homes catering for the needs of older drug users.

“In the future, drug treatment and care programmes will have to be modified and developed if this ageing cohort is to receive an appropriate level of care. This is likely to require staff training and changes in care provision.

“As this is a client group with relatively poor engagement with the general health system and poor adherence to treatment for drug-related infections, the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach that continues after drug treatment is clear,” the report stated.

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