The legalization of cannabis in many states for medical and recreational purposes has led to a surge in interest in using it to treat a variety of long-term health conditions and symptoms. Among the new users: older adults.

The proportion of adults 65 years and older who reported using marijuana use increased from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine analyzed data collected from the 2015-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey of non-institutionalized individuals in the U.S., and identified a number of key groups among older adults who have experienced a marked increase in cannabis use. Those groups include women, racial and ethnic minorities, adults with higher family incomes, those who reported receiving mental health treatment, and individuals with diabetes.

advertisement

Dramatic increases in cannabis use overall piqued the curiosity of researchers and compelled them to look closely at trends among older adults, even though they are not typically associated with high levels of drug use, according to Benjamin Han, co-author of the research.

“Cannabis use was very stigmatized in the past but now we have all these new laws passing about medical use of cannabis, so people are curious to see if it is something that can be used to treat their chronic disease,” said Han.

advertisement

Han said it’s also important for health care providers to be aware of growing cannabis use among older adults. While it’s possible that cannabis use could provide health benefits, older adults are especially vulnerable to the potential side effects or other harms.

“As health care providers, we don’t do a very good job of screening older patients for substance use. This is something we need to be asking, and be prepared to answer any questions about,” said Han.

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, a health policy and law expert at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study, said she hoped future research efforts would focus on the mechanisms that drive increase in cannabis use among older adults.

“I would argue that the mechanism is more important than the finding that cannabis use has gone up,” she said. “Have individuals been medically using it for a long time and are now 65 years and older or are these new people, 65 years and older, who are now willing to try cannabis?”

There is limited scientific evidence on the potential benefits and harms of cannabis use. While the legalization of cannabis at the state level has eased some restrictions on research, there is still limited supply — and cannabis use remains illegal at the federal level.

Experts say the growing use of cannabis by older adults in the U.S. demands for more rigorous empirical evidence that can help weigh its benefits and potential harms.

  • It seems to me that JAMA simply conducted a poll targeting seniors 65 and older, and came up with some predictable data on the increase in pot usage. The expected findings reveal that medical pot, and recreational usage is legal in many states, so with availability ,it’s logical to assume that usage would increase. Because we’re over 65 doesn’t negate the fact we might still like a good buzzz,( cleaner than booze), and it helps us sleep pain free as an extra bonus.

  • The reason that older individuals are more conducive to using marijuana is because the use of pain relievers and painkillers has been decreasing. This is not necessarily a good thing and those that are experiencing chronic pain and they are now going to this extent to find relief, this means that there’s a failure in our medical system someplace.

  • It is about time that taboo is leaving the room, and CBD enters with its multitude of merits. Of course those with complicated / chronic health issues will check it out – and good for them! Cannabis use is not identical to smoking pot. The CBD component is available in a meriad of delivery options (drops, oils, creams, drinks and edibles) and it is real medicine for pain relief, epilepsy, gut issues, FM, and so much more. If only the archaeic would finally drop the stigma and evolve there would be so many more sufferers truly helped. I bet that in everyone’s street there is someone benefitting from CBD.

  • There’s also this. I worked jobs that random drug tested all my life, including when I was a self-employed contractor. I never risked pot use because I was a responsible adult that wasn’t involuntarily unemployed a single day in my adult life. Now I’m retired and suffer a LOT of constant pain. I’m looking into weed’s benefits in comparison to its negatives, and if I decide the benefits outweigh the negatives, I’ll use it. Even in Texas, what’s gonna happen to me if I get caught with a small amount?

    • Find someone you trust and give it a try. Taking a few puffs has little side effects and you can see if it maybe helpful.

  • Older folks have been doing it for a while…like since the 60’s and 70’s. You know what they say: Man made beer, God made pot; God is perfect, man is not.

  • I’ve smoked marijuana morning, noon and night almost every day for more than 50 years. I’m 66, and all my medical tests and lung scans have come out clean every time. I’ve never missed work except for the occasional sick day in 45 years, and I have worked and still work in fields (newspaper journalism and now marketing and communications) that would prohibit functioning with a fried brain. I have no intention of changing what has been working for half a century.

  • I’ve smoked marijuana morning, noon and night almost every day for more than 50 years. I’m 66, and all my medical tests and lung scans have come out clean every time. I’ve never missed work except for the occasional sick day in 45 years, and I have worked and still work in fields (newspaper journalism and now marketing and communications that would prohibit functioning with a fried brain. I have no intention of changing what has been working for half a century.

    • Typical liberals. Who cares about the human tragedy of the psychosis and homelessness on the streets. All of them have drug problems. Most from simple Dope. Not so simple for sooo many thousands. As long as its good for you selfish lib tards who cares about those poor souls. No surprise though. You are all pro baby murder too. Its all about you. Couldn’t you sacrifice your selfish vices and find another way, to keep this garbage away from those that cant handle it. Of course not. Its all about you not helping your fellow citizen.

  • The reason for increased pot consumption in older people is insanely easy to figure out. Every generation grew up with its own way to get stoned in their youth. My Grandparents was bourbon and Gin. 100+ years ago it was opium, morphine and cocaine as well as bourbon. Now the boomers are getting old they are going back to their drug of choice – pot.

  • I worked 37 years for the DoD. In the late 80’s the ‘Drugfree Workplace’ program kicked into high gear (no pun Intended). In my shipyard only certain job titles required random testing which amounted to approximately 20% of the employees there. We were tested repeatedly over the years while the other 80% only had to be worried if they were busted outside the workplace. I complained loudly and often that the concept of a drugfree workplace was a joke if everyone wasn’t tested randomly. I worked next to many employees that popped Zoloft and Prozac like it was Pez candy. There is no telling what else these weak people did to endure the daily BS. My reward was testing at a higher rate than many others. Since retirement I’ve chosen to smoke on occasion. No harm. No foul. Get over it.

  • All us 60+ “older people” were the ones getting high all through the 70s. No surprise we all revert to type.

    • So true, I hang out with a bunch of sixty year olds, we listen to 60’s and 70’s music passing bowls around.

Comments are closed.

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy