New Research Shows Cannabis Is Popular in the Over 65 Population
Karen Berger, PharmD, Medical Writer
Imagine rolling a joint with Grandma…or baking some edible brownies with Grandpa. Sounds amusing, but before you laugh, check out the newest research from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
JAMA reports that with the increasing legalization of cannabis in many states for medical and/or recreational use, older adults are increasingly turning to cannabis to treat a variety of medical conditions.
And why not? Cannabis is helpful for a variety of medical conditions: anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, Parkinson’s disease, lack of appetite, seizures, and migraines, among others.
Mary Jane just may be your Grandma – looking at adults 65 years and older, from 2006-2007, 0.4% reported using cannabis. That number increased to 2.9% from 2015-2016.
How did JAMA find this out? They analyzed results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, estimating prevalence and looking at various factors such as: sex, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, household income, marital status, chronic disease, tobacco/alcohol use, mental health treatment, and emergency department use.
Research participants were asked if they used cannabis in the forms of “marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, and hash oil either smoked or ingested.”
After munching, I mean, crunching, the numbers, JAMA calculated a 75% increase in the prevalence of cannabis use among adults over 65 in the past year.
Interestingly, there were significant increases among: “women, individuals of white and nonwhite races/ethnicities, individuals with a college education, individuals with incomes of $20,000 to $49,000 and $75,000 or greater, and married individuals.” There was also a 180% increase in cannabis use in adults with diabetes. Adults who reported drinking alcohol were more likely to use cannabis as well.
The study concluded that “the use of cannabis continues to increase among older adults nationally. We determined that a number of key subgroups experienced marked increases in cannabis use, including women, racial/ethnic minorities, those with higher family incomes, and those with mental health problems. While we also found an increase in cannabis use among older people with diabetes, in general, it appears that the increase in cannabis use is driven largely by those who do not have multiple chronic medical conditions.”
If you are over 65 and using cannabis, or someone you love is over 65 and using cannabis (these tips are helpful for cannabis users of any age), be sure to stay safe by:
- Not driving or operating machinery while using cannabis
- Keeping cannabis out of the reach of children
- Making sure you do not take any medications that can interact with cannabis. Check with your doctor for more information.
- Look for forms with higher CBD, as it does not have the psychoactive properties of THC.
- Purchasing from a licensed medical or recreational dispensary.
- Remember that edibles take longer to work, so use them very slowly, and do not take more while waiting for it to “kick in.”