Heroin and Tranquilisers Curse the Baby Boomer Generation

They are the generation who grew up in the Sixties: the middle-aged adults forever associated with free love, rock’n’roll, and drugs. Now a more disturbing legacy of that era is revealed, with new figures suggesting more and more “baby boomers” are becoming addicted to heroin, sleeping pills and tranquilisers.

Government statistics collected centrally for the first time indicate that the number of over-45s being treated for heroin addiction in England rose by 13% from 11,475 to 13,015 between April 2004 and March this year. The number referred to clinics for any drug addiction rose by 1,012 to 23,191. Referrals for taking benzodiazepine tranquilisers such as Valium and Diazepam increased from 839 to 921.

The figures, released by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), a government agency, are understood to reflect not a rise in addiction, but in the number of addicts seeking help. They pinpoint a significant group of heroin users who have been addicted since they were young.

Emily Finch, clinical psychiatrist for the NTA, said more older addicts were coming forward due to government anti-drugs policies. “We generally see people who have started using drugs in their 20s and 30s and grown up with it. We also see some who start later in their 40s and 50s.

“Heroin doesn’t have a high death rate so users grow older. They are less chaotic than young people but the baby boom generation who have gone through and survived heroin haven’t looked after themselves. Their physical health can be more of a problem than the actual heroin.”

One 55-year-old addict who did not want to be named entered treatment 18 months ago. “Most of my friends that I started using with have moved on, lots of them stopped using and settled down. The ones I do see are in a mess, some have got clots and can hardly walk, some have even died.”